Wearing a face mask

Face masks are a way we can protect ourselves and others. You must wear one when visiting healthcare services. If you cannot wear a face mask you can get a Mask Exemption Pass.

Key points

  • You must wear a face mask at most healthcare services.
  • We encourage you to wear a face mask in crowded places, such as public transport, or when visiting people at high risk.
  • Your face mask must attach to your face by loops around your ears or head.
  • If you are unable to wear a face mask, you can apply for a Mask Exemption Pass.
  • You can get free face masks when you pick up RATs from a testing centre. P2/N95 face masks will be available for people at higher risk of severe illness.

Find a testing site with free face masks | Healthpoint (external link)

Where you must wear a face mask

You must wear a face mask at most healthcare services.

For example, you must wear a face mask when visiting:

  • doctors' clinics
  • community and iwi health providers
  • pharmacies — but not those inside supermarkets
  • hospitals
  • urgent care services, such as after-hours clinics
  • dentists and oral health services
  • disability support services
  • residential care for older people and people with disabilities
  • other health services such as optometrists and physiotherapists.

You do not need to wear a face mask if:

  • you live at a residential care service
  • you visit psychotherapy, counselling, or mental health and addiction services.

For patients and workers at healthcare services, face mask requirements will be decided locally. The Ministry of Health has information for staff about using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks.

Infection prevention and control for health and disability workers | Ministry of Health (external link)

Mask-wearing in healthcare settings | Ministry of Health (external link)

As cases rise, we strongly encourage you to wear a face mask in closed, crowded and confined spaces.

Face masks help protect yourself and others around you, especially people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. This includes older people, people with compromised immunity and disabled people.

We strongly recommend patients at any healthcare service wear a face mask if they can.

Some healthcare services may ask you to wear a face mask whatever your reason for being there.

We encourage you to wear a face mask if you are:

  • a Household Contact and testing daily for 5 days
  • at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • keen to reduce your risk of becoming sick.

We also encourage you to wear a face mask in these places:

  • public transport, including buses, commuter trains, indoors on ferries, flights, taxis and ride-shares
  • crowded places
  • enclosed spaces with poor ventilation
  • close contact settings, such as face-to-face conversations.

Some places, such as workplaces, special events or marae, may still ask you to wear a face mask.

Face masks remain an important defence against COVID-19. The government will regularly review their use.

Free face masks

You can get free medical face masks when you pick up rapid antigen tests (RATs) from a testing centre. You do not need to be unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms. To get free face masks, order online:

Request free RATs and face masks | Ministry of Health (external link)

Find a testing site that offers free face masks | Healthpoint (external link)

If you are at higher risk of severe illness, you can get free P2/N95 face masks.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Video: Supporting those unable to wear face masks

If you cannot wear a face mask

Face masks are unsuitable for some people due to disabilities or health conditions.

If you cannot wear a face mask, you can apply for a Mask Exemption Pass. It can help make it easier to explain that a face mask is unsuitable for you.

You do not have to show a Mask Exemption Pass — but it may help you feel more comfortable.

Apply for a Mask Exemption Pass (external link)

Advice if you cannot wear a face mask

Sometimes the reason why a face mask is unsuitable for you is not obvious to others. Do not worry if someone asks whether you can wear a face mask. They just want to help keep you and others safe.

It is inappropriate for someone to ask about your disability or condition. But it is reasonable for them to check whether you are exempt from the rule to wear a face mask.

Keeping up healthy habits

If you cannot wear a face mask, these healthy habits will help keep you and others safe:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Keep a 2-metre distance from people you do not know.
  • Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands often.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.

You can also consider if there are delivery or click-and-collect options you could use. Or ask family and friends to pick things up for you.

People at higher risk from COVID-19

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