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 as a visitor.
  • We encourage you to wear a face mask in crowded places, such as public transport, or when visiting people in the community who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • 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 when visiting most healthcare services. 

This is to help protect those at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

For example, you must wear a face mask if you are a visitor to:

  • doctors' clinics
  • community and iwi health providers
  • pharmacies — excluding pharmacies inside supermarkets
  • hospitals
  • urgent care services, such as after-hours clinics
  • disability support services
  • residential care for older people and people with disabilities
  • diagnostic services such as blood testing or radiology services
  • dentists and oral health services
  • other health services such as optometrists, physiotherapists, or chiropractors.

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.

Patients

For patients in healthcare services, face masks are recommended if you have symptoms and are not self-isolating. They are encouraged in healthcare situations where other people may be unwell, such as waiting rooms. Check local guidance for face masks. 

If you need medicines and are unwell or self-isolating, talk to your pharmacy about contactless medicine delivery options.

Healthcare workers

Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand has information for staff about using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks. Healthcare workers should follow local masking guidance, and the Te Whatu Ora infection prevention and control recommendations. 

COVID-19: Infection prevention and control recommendations for health and disability care workers - Te Whatu Ora (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 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.

Patients at healthcare services

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.

Face mask use at other locations

Some places, such as workplaces, special events or marae, may still ask you to wear a face mask as a condition of entry. This is their decision and no longer a government requirement.

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.

Advice for people who have difficulties wearing a face mask

How to apply for a Mask Exemption Pass

When applying for a Mask Exemption Pass, you are making a legal declaration that at least 1 of these applies to you.

  • A physical illness.
  • A mental illness.
  • A condition or disability.

These categories may not specifically explain your situation, choose the one that best suits you. You can apply on behalf of someone else using these options.

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