Face masks

Face masks are a way we can protect ourselves and others. Find out when you should wear them, how to wear them safely, and how to get free face masks.

You may be asked to wear a face mask

Some healthcare facilities and certain areas within healthcare facilities may ask visitors to wear a face mask. This is to protect those at higher risk, for example patients receiving care in an intensive care unit or emergency department of a hospital. To protect those at higher risk, respect and follow the healthcare facilities policies.

Where and why you should wear a face mask

We recommend you wear a face mask when visiting healthcare services. 

Wearing a face mask is also encouraged when in closed, crowded and confined spaces, such as when travelling on public transport.

Wearing a face mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 in 2 ways:

  • They reduce the number of virus particles someone with COVID-19 can spread.
  • They prevent you from inhaling virus particles.

Face masks help protect you and others around you, especially people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. This includes:

  • older people and kaumātua
  • babies
  • people living in aged residential care facilities
  • patients in hospital
  • people with other health conditions
  • disabled people.

You should find a good quality face mask that fits you well and is comfortable to wear.

How to wear a face mask safely

Free face masks

Masks remain free until 29 February 2024. You can get free face masks when you pick up free rapid antigen tests (RATs) from participating pharmacies and collection centres.

This includes medical masks and P2/N95 masks for people at higher risk of getting very sick. When picking up masks, talk to the staff onsite about whether a medical or a P2/N95 mask is the best choice for you.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

You do not need to be unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms to get free masks.

Find a collection centre near you that offers free face masks:

Videos: Face mask guidance

Videos: Face mask guidance

Face mask posters

We have COVID-19 resources available for businesses and other organisations to download, print and share.

Last updated: at