Testing positive for Covid-19: What you need to know
You may have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 or felt sick and needed to get a test. Maybe you didn't have any symptoms and you got tested for work, or before travelling.
Now you've tested positive and you aren't sure what comes next.
What happens when you test positive for Covid-19 and what should people living with you do? Let us explain.
How will I know if I have Covid-19?
The first step is to get a test. You should only do this if you have symptoms or you’re a close contact. You can get either a PCR test (nasal swab) or a rapid-antigen test.
When you arrive for a PCR test you should have your NHI number with you, so the process is as fast as possible. You can find out your number by calling 0800 855 066.
Rapid antigen testing is only available in certain circumstances, like if you are part of the critical worker exemption scheme. You will get a result in 15 minutes but if it is positive you will need to take a PCR test as well. To understand how to read the rapid antigen test you can go to My Covid Record. You can also report your results there too.
If you've had a PCR test, you should get your result in 2-5 days. Make sure you always have your phone on you.
You need to stay home while you wait for your result. Don't go out to get food or medical supplies, if you need something you can ask someone to drop it off and leave it outside for you to get once they have left. If you don't have anyone to do this, you can find support services like food banks by clicking here.
We are in phase two of the Omicron response and test results are now sent by text. You will get your results from 2328 – an official number. You can also access your test results on My Covid Record.
Regardless of whether you are waiting for your results, you tested negative or you have Covid-19, if you feel unwell or start to have symptoms call your GP or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. You can call them any time of the day or night.
If you or someone else needs an interpreter, Healthline will be able to sort this out for you.
The NZ Relay Service and the Video Interpreting Service can be used to call Healthline.
I was told I have Covid-19, now what?
You should tell people you live with and anyone you have been in close contact with that you have Covid so they can isolate straight away. If you have symptoms, that’s anyone you spent time with two days before the symptoms started. For anyone else it’s two days before you took a test.
In the text message from 2328 you will see there is a link to an online form. Click on this link to fill out the form.
Doing this helps make sure you get the right support you need to isolate safely.
It will give you information on self-isolation, what help is available, ask you what your needs are, and how to let other people know that you have Covid-19.
A second link in the text message will be for you to fill out who you think your close contacts are. Generally, if you’ve been within 1.5 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes and not wearing a mask you are close contacts. Kissing, sharing a cigarette or vape, sharing drinks, spending time inside together dancing, shouting or singing also means you’re close contacts.
If you prefer to be contacted by phone or it isn’t easy for you to do things digitally – either on a phone or computer – a phone call is still an option for you.
If you don’t fill out the form within 24 hours, someone will call you.
If you are self-managing Covid-19, you can expect very little contact from health teams, but you will be given clear advice about what to do if you start to feel more unwell. You’ll also be given a phone number for 24-hour health support.
If it is decided you need more care, you will be contacted regularly.
What should my family and people I am living with do?
People in your household are at higher risk for getting Covid-19.
They have to stay home for ten days, starting the same day as your ten days of isolation does.
They will need to get tested on day three, and again eight days after their last contact with you.
Just like you did, if you gave their name as one of your close contacts, they will get a text message with a link to information and a form to fill out.
Your close contacts who don’t live with you will need to stay in isolation for seven days since you last saw them. They need to get a test five days after they last saw you and monitor their symptoms for 10 days.
If any of your close contacts - whether they live with you or not - develop symptoms, they should get tested immediately.
Can I self-isolate at home?
Things have changed from the beginning of the pandemic when everyone who tested positive for Covid-19 was taken to a managed isolation facility.
Whether you can stay at home will depend on how severe your illness is. You and everyone in your household need to isolate away from other people. You will either do this at home, other suitable accommodation like a holiday home, or in MIQ.
At home you need to stay 1.5 metres away from people and if possible, don’t share a bed or bedroom with anyone else. Try to spend as little time as possible in shared spaces and make sure you have windows and doors open throughout the house.
You shouldn’t make food for anyone else either and you’ll need to wipe down surfaces you share with other people, like taps and benches in the kitchen and bathroom. You can use soap, water and a cloth to do this.
Make sure you don’t share food, cutlery, dishes, cups, towels, toothbrushes, soap or pillows and you should do your own washing, including your clothes and dishes.
Wear a mask to help keep people in your house safe and wash your hands often.
You will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You’ll get a text when your isolation is complete, and you can return to life as usual.
If you are self-isolating, you will only legally be allowed to leave your home if you're asked to have another test or because you need to access an essential health service and it can't wait until you're well, or if your safety/life or someone else's safety/life is at risk.
That's all outlined in the Section 70 notice - which states what is legally required of someone with Covid-19. If you don't do what is required, or refuse to, you can face up to six months' prison time and/or be fined up to $4000.
What if I need to go to MIQ?
You may be told you need to go into a managed isolation quarantine facility and you can decide whether you'd like your family to join you.
You won't need to pay for the cost of your stay, and you'll be provided with three meals a day and snacks. There'll be Wifi and laundry services available to you and you'll get basic toiletries and refreshments.
When you first arrive you'll get a welcome pack which will tell you more about what to expect during your stay.
Your physical and mental health will be closely monitored by staff and you'll have a dedicated health team looking after you.
If you don't need to go into hospital during your illness, you'll be allowed to go home when the health team are confident you're no longer infectious. But both you and your household will need to be in MIQ for 10 - 14 days after you first have symptoms. Once you have had no symptoms for 72 hours after this period, you will be sent home.
I tested positive while on holiday, can I go back home?
Whether or not you will be able to go home will depend on where you are. You will only be allowed to leave if you and the people you are with can drive home without stopping anywhere on the way (unless it's a contactless petrol station or somewhere like a bathroom).
If you took public transport or a flight to get to your destination, it's very likely you'll need to stay where you are and self-isolate there.
You need to tell your accommodation provider you have Covid-19 and your close contacts will need to do the same. You will also need to tell your rental car company or the owner of the car you are driving.
If you can't return home, you need to follow the self-isolation rules above.
I'm worried about how sick I am, who should I call?
If you need urgent medical help, call 111. If you have Covid-19, you won't need to pay for ambulance services or hospital care - it's free.
You can also call your GP or Healthline any time of the day or night on 0800 358 5453. Make sure you call them if you are getting more unwell.
The NZ Relay Service and the Video Interpreting Service can be used to call Healthline.
If you have chest pains or feel short of breath, you’re confused, feeling faint or pass out, call an ambulance by dialing 111.
Pasifika Medical Association chief executive Debbie Sorensen told RNZ if someone is feeling unwell, very short of breath and feeling like they can't get a breath, they need to call for medical help regardless of what number is showing on the oximeter.
"It is really important that people understand that if they are feeling terrible, and that doesn't seem like the number matches how they are feeling, then they need to get medical attention and not wait for somebody to tell them that it is okay to do that."
If you need medication, contact a local pharmacy or GP who can organise for your medication to be delivered to your home.
Will anyone know I've tested positive?
The Ministry of Health will share the result of your Covid-19 test with your doctor if you ask them to.
They may also tell emergency services in your area if it is helpful for them to know.
They will not share your positive result for police enforcement or immigration-related reasons.
Your employer needs to protect your privacy and shouldn't share your information in your workplace.
Will I get sick pay?
Sort of, it's called the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme and your employer applies for this on your behalf. It covers two weeks of work and is paid to your employer all at once. This is available for your close contacts who also need to self-isolate.
If you usually work full-time and were working 20 hours or more each week, the payment is $600 per week. If you usually work part-time and were working less than 20 hours each week, the payment is $359 per week.
This is the absolute minimum amount your employer must pay you unless you usually earn less than those amounts - in that case they must pay you as they usually would.
The Ministry of Social Development says employers must try their hardest to pay you your normal pay or at least 80 percent of your normal pay.
There are a few people who can't get this payment. Find out if you're eligible here.
I don't have any food in the house, what should I do?
You can contact your care coordinator or the Covid-19 support line any day of the week by calling 0800 512 337 for help with kai or welfare support.
If someone is able to, they can drop off food to you by leaving it at your door. You need to wait for them to leave before you open the door. You can't have contact with them or anyone else.
You can find support services like food banks by clicking here.
If you aren't currently in paid work and need financial assistance you can contact the Ministry of Social Development. You'll find phone numbers and contact information here.
You can also get help through Whānau Ora to help meet basic needs for food, accommodation, heating, internet connectivity, water and sewerage. If you live in the North Island, you can call them on 0800 929 282, or in the South Island the number is 0800 187 689.
I wasn't vaccinated when I tested positive, can I go and get vaccinated now?
You can't get vaccinated if you're self-isolating or in MIQ.
If you've got a vaccination appointment booked, you'll need to ring 0800 28 29 26 or visit the Book My Vaccine website to change your appointment.
Once you recover, you'll be able to get vaccinated.
The Immunisation Advisory Centre says people who have had Covid-19 can get vaccinated.
"It is recommended to start vaccination from 4 weeks after recovery, or from the first confirmed Covid-19 positive PCR test if asymptomatic, and when cleared to leave isolation by a clinician."
Can my pet get Covid-19?
The SPCA says there isn't evidence to indicate pets can give their owners Covid-19, but can they catch it from you?
While there hasn't been a study done on this in New Zealand, research out of Utrecht University found Covid-19 is common in cats and dogs whose owners have tested positive.
Swabs were taken from 310 pets in 196 households where a human infection had been detected.
Six cats and seven dogs returned a positive PCR result, while 54 animals tested positive for virus antibodies.
"If you have Covid, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people," Dr Els Broens, from Utrecht University, said.
"The main concern is not the animals' health but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population."
The authors of the study said no evidence of pet-to-owner transmission had been recorded to date but it would be difficult to detect while the virus was still spreading easily between humans.
Most infected pets tend to be asymptomatic or display mild Covid-19 symptoms.
If you're going into MIQ, SPCA recommends that pets remain at home if possible or with a trusted person.
MPI advises people to avoid contact with pets and other animals, as they would with people.
If you're a farmer who has tested positive, MPI says before yarding cattle, you should speak to your processor and supply chain partners (such as transporters), as they will have rules and requirements around loading and transporting animals.
What happens once I recover and finish isolating?
You will have got a text message to tell you that you can stop isolating.
You should clean and disinfect your home 12 hours after you or someone in your home recovers from Covid-19. Make sure you wear gloves and clean all the places you touch the most in your house, like door handles, remote controls and light switches. Once you’re done cleaning, give mop heads a clean too.
Wash all dishes that were used in warm water and try to air out your home by opening windows and doors.
Throw away any rubbish, tissues and masks. Put them in a sealed bag and into the general house rubbish.
Wash and dry your bedding and clothing – just don’t shake them before they are washed.
I'm feeling overwhelmed, is there someone I can talk to?
Everyone reacts differently to testing positive for the virus, and it's understandable if you're feeling worried, confused, sad, angry, anxious or distressed.
You can find some tips on looking after your mental health here.
If you need support you can call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
There's also a range of other services you can contact:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
South Seas Healthcare Trust: Languages spoken: Samoan, Tongan and English. Phone 09 278 2694
West Fono Health Trust: Languages spoken: Samoan, Tongan and English. Phone 09 837 1780
Le Va: National Pacific mental health and suicide prevention provider. Phone: 09 261 3490
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)
Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
OUTLine: Free LGBTQI support, call 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)
Asian Family Services: Freephone 0800 862 342 to access help in 10 languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English. The helpline provides nationwide free and confidential services from Monday to Friday between 9am-8pm.
If you're in an unsafe home environment:
Women's Refuge: (0800 733 843)
It's Not OK (0800 456 450)
Shine: 0508 744 633
Victim Support: 0800 650 654
HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0
The National Network of Family Violence Services NZ has information on specialist family violence agencies.
For drug and alcohol support:
Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
*This article was first published on 20 December 2021 and was updated as New Zealand's Covid-19 response changed.
RNZ / BBC