Frequently asked questions

Below is the answers to some frequently asked questions. Please see covid.govt.nz for a more comprehensive list.

When should I seek medical advice?

If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, please call your GP, or Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453. Please call ahead before seeing your GP.

Who needs to get tested for COVID-19?

Under the current case definition, anyone who is unwell with acute respiratory symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, or temporary loss of sense of smell with or without a high temperature fits the definition of a suspect case and would ideally be tested to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of COVID-19. The person does not need to have a fever to meet the definition.

Health professionals are the best people to decide when testing is needed. Having symptoms that match the definition of a suspect case does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as colds and flu.

What should I do if I think I need to be tested?

We want to make sure that we are reaching everyone in our community who may be affected by COVID-19.

Getting tested early helps protect those around you and helps New Zealand eliminate COVID-19.

If you have symptoms you think match the case definition (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold, loss of sense of smell) please call your GP, iwi health provider, or Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs). They will tell you what you need to do.

You can find out more about the arrangements in your area by visiting the website of your local District Health Board. You can find your DHB on the Ministry of Health website.

How does testing work?

There is more than one way to test for COVID-19 (for example a nose swab or a sputum test). Whatever form a test takes, it involves collecting a sample that is then sent to a lab to be analysed.

Whatever form your test takes, it is likely the results may take some time. Anyone being tested will be told when and how to expect their results. Whether you test positive or negative, you should be notified about your results.

Anyone being tested should follow the advice they are given at the time about what to do next.

What happens when someone is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Whenever someone is diagnosed with COVID-19 medical professionals will advise them on what they need to do. For most people this will mean self-isolating at home. Public Health teams also immediately start work to identify and contact anyone that those who have tested positive may have come into close contact with.

If you have been tested do you get notified of the results regardless of the outcome, or only if it's positive?

Yes, if the result is positive or negative, people should be notified by their healthcare professional.

How do you treat COVID-19?

Currently, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 as it is a new virus. Researchers are in the early stages of developing one.

What is contact tracing?

The Taranaki Public Health Unit carries out contact tracing for confirmed cases and their close contacts (e.g. families, flatmates who live in the same house) in our region.

Other contact tracing (e.g. for people on flights), is undertaken by the specialised national close contact tracing service.

Our message for the community is that the NMPHS, and the national close contact tracing service, undertake expert contact tracing to reach close contacts – the people most at risk – as they determine necessary. Close contacts will be contacted directly.

Taranaki DHB will not disclose personal information about a confirmed case’s movements if it is not useful to the contact tracing process or when that contact’s movements have not placed the public at risk.

Taranaki DHB will take a proactive approach and alert the public (eg via media release and social media) about a location, or event, when this is determined necessary. A public alert would be issued when it has been determined that members of the public at a certain location or event may be possible casual contacts, and would be unable to be identified and contacted through the contact tracing process.

The process:

  1. Any positive COVID-19 case is reported to the on-call medical officer of health
  2. Every case is then interviewed by a Taranaki Public Heath Unit (PHU) employee to determine risk factors, including travel.
  3. Contact tracing commences. 
  4. Every case is monitored by the Taranaki PHU until a medical officer of health has determined that it is safe for the person to come out of isolation.

For definitions of close and casual contacts, and more information about contact tracing, go to the Ministry of Health's website.

Questions about test and PPE supplies

Queries about national or regional test and PPE supplies should be directed to the Ministry of Health media@health.govt.nz

Numbers of people in self-isolation

Taranaki DHB does not have access to information about the numbers of people in voluntary self-isolation. This information is held as a central register by Healthline and the Ministry of Health.

Advice for travellers

For current advice is regards to travel, please see the government's SafeTravel website.

Advice for schools

For current advice for schools, please see this Ministry of Education webpage.

Bluetooth tracing FAQs

What do I need to do?
Once the update has been installed, you will be able to turn on Bluetooth Tracing. If your phone is compatible, it will ask for permission to use your phone's Exposure Notification System. This is entirely optional but strongly recommended.

If you have an Android phone, it might take a few minutes for it to confirm whether your device supports Bluetooth tracing. Please be patient and check back later if you need to. You can read more about compatibility requirements for Bluetooth tracing on our website.

Do I still need to scan the QR codes?
Yes, whether or not you choose to participate in Bluetooth tracing, you should also continue to scan the official QR codes wherever you see them.

QR codes allow us to create a private record of the places we’ve been, while Bluetooth tracing allows us to create an anonymised record of the people we’ve been near. Both are important for contact tracing.

What is Bluetooth tracing?
Bluetooth tracing uses radio waves to allow your phone to securely exchange randomised ‘keys’ with other nearby phones up to around 2 metres away.

When an app user tests positive for COVID-19, the contact tracing team will ask them to upload their Bluetooth keys. If you were near enough to that person for long enough to be at risk of exposure, you will receive a Bluetooth alert.

The Bluetooth alert will give you advice on what you need to do to protect yourself and your whānau to help stop the spread of the virus.

Watch a short video here for an overview of Bluetooth tracing.

Does Bluetooth tracing affect my privacy?
Protecting your privacy has been one of our top priorities throughout the development of NZ COVID Tracer.

Bluetooth tracing doesn’t involve exchanging any identifying information. Anyone who receives a Bluetooth alert won’t know who sent it or where they were when they were exposed to the virus.

Similarly, your digital diary of scanned QR codes and manual entries is stored securely on your phone where only you can see it.

The app has been endorsed by the Privacy Commissioner due to its focus on privacy.

We have also released the source code so you can see for yourself how the app manages your data.

Will Bluetooth tracing work on my phone?
Bluetooth tracing requires iOS 13.5+ on iPhones or Android 6.0+ on other phones. Phones with Android must also support Bluetooth Low Energy and have access to Google Play Services.

If your phone does not support Bluetooth tracing, you can still scan the QR codes to keep a private record of the places you visit, and will still receive location alerts if you have them enabled.

How do I update the app?
NZ COVID Tracer will update by itself if you have automatic updates enabled.

You can also manually update the app through the App Store (for iPhones) or the Play Store (other phones). Instructions can be found on the Ministry’s website.

What is the benefit of enabling Bluetooth tracing on the NZ COVID Tracer app?
Bluetooth has the potential to speed up contact tracing by enabling people to be more quickly alerted if they have been nearby someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

There are currently around 2.4 million registered users of the NZ COVID Tracer app, of which approximately 90 percent will have phones that are compatible with Bluetooth tracing. This provides the critical mass of users needed for Bluetooth tracing to detect a significant proportion of ‘close contacts’ between individuals.

Is Bluetooth tracing limited to the NZ COVID Tracer app?
The Apple/Google Exposure Notification Framework also has the potential to be implemented in wearable devices such as cards or wristbands or other personal devices that have Bluetooth.

Will Bluetooth tracing detect all my close contacts?
No, Bluetooth tracing will only collect randomised ‘keys’ from other nearby app users who are also using NZ COVID Tracer with Bluetooth tracing enabled. Not everyone uses the app and some app users will not have Bluetooth tracing enabled.

Is Bluetooth tracing mandatory? Bluetooth tracing is optional but recommended. Once the NZ COVID Tracer update is installed, and if the phone is compatible with Bluetooth tracing, the app user will be prompted to decide whether to opt in.

Along with QR code scanning, Bluetooth tracing is another tool in the toolkit to help keep us safe from the virus by enabling rapid and effective contact tracing. QR codes allow us to create a private record of the places we’ve been, while Bluetooth allows us to create an anonymised record of the people we’ve been near.

Will Bluetooth tracing use up my mobile data?
Bluetooth doesn’t use any mobile data because it does not involve accessing the cellular network. Bluetooth is a form of wireless communication that enables phones and other devices to talk directly to each other.

However, while the Bluetooth function itself does not use any data, the NZ COVID Tracer app does use a very small amount of data when your phone checks for contact alerts, and when anonymised analytic information is sent to the Ministry for reporting purposes.

Will Bluetooth tracing drain my battery?
The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which is designed to use considerably less power than Classic Bluetooth. As a result, the impact on phone battery life will be minimal.

If an app user thinks their battery is draining faster than usual after enabling Bluetooth tracing, they can check this by looking at their phone’s settings to see how much of the battery usage relates to each app installed on the phone.

If you think the app’s battery usage is excessive, please contact the NZ COVID Tracer support team at help@covidtracer.min.health.nz or on 0800 800 606 so we can look into the problem. You will need the following information:

Do you need the NZ COVID Tracer app if you have Bluetooth enabled on your phone?
Yes, Bluetooth tracing will only work if you have a compatible device with the NZ COVID Tracer app installed.

Does the NZ COVID Tracer app need to remain open for Bluetooth tracing to work?
No, the Bluetooth tracing function is part of the operating system of your phone, which means you don’t need to keep the app open.

Will NZ COVID Tracer still send location alerts?
You will still receive a location alert through the NZ COVID tracer app if you scan the QR code for a location at around the same time that it was visited by a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Can I receive both a Bluetooth alert and a location alert for the same ‘exposure event’?
You may receive both a Bluetooth alert and a location alert if you were nearby a person with COVID-19 who has been using Bluetooth tracing and if you also scanned the QR code at a location visited by that person.

The information and advice contained within a Bluetooth alert takes precedence over any location alert because the risk of exposure from being nearby someone who has COVID-19 is generally higher than the risk associated with visiting the same location.

Do all phones support Bluetooth tracing?
The Apple/Google Exposure Notification Framework (ENF) is built into the operating system of all phones running iOS 13.5+ or Android 6.0+. Android devices must also support Google Play Services and Bluetooth Low Energy in order to use Bluetooth tracing.

Phones with older operating systems cannot provide Bluetooth tracing because they do not have the ENF built in. However, the ENF is a protocol that also has potential to be used in other devices such as cards or wristbands or other personal devices that have Bluetooth.

If your phone is running iOS 11 or later then you can still use the NZ COVID Tracer app to scan the QR codes and add manual entries to your digital diary, and you will still receive location alerts if you have them enabled.

Can people with older phones still use NZ COVID Tracer to scan the QR codes and add manual entries to their digital diaries?
Yes, you can still use all other functions of the NZ COVID Tracer app if your phone has:

If I use Bluetooth tracing will the Government, Apple or Google have access to my Bluetooth data?
No. The Ministry of Health’s implementation of NZ COVID Tracer is decentralised, which means your Bluetooth data and digital diary are stored securely on your phone and are controlled by you.

If you test positive for COVID-19 and choose to send a Bluetooth notification, this does not involve transmitting any identifying information. The only information contained within the notification is a list of the ‘keys’ that your phone has broadcast when you were infectious.

NZ COVID Tracer has been endorsed by the Privacy Commissioner and the Ministry of Health has also released the source code so New Zealanders can see for themselves how their information is managed.

Will the Government, Apple or Google be able to track my movements if I use Bluetooth tracing?
No. Bluetooth tracing does not involve location tracking of any kind.

Bluetooth tracing works by generating randomised ‘keys’ and exchanging them with other nearby smartphones. The keys don’t contain any information about who you are or where you were, which means no personal or identifying information is exchanged.

Your Bluetooth keys are stored securely on your phone, and only your phone knows which keys belong to you.

Where can I find out more?

If you experience any problems using the app, please contact the app support team at help@covidtracer.min.health.nz or on 0800 800 606.


For COVID-19 enquiries email

TDHBCovid.Enquiries@tdhb.org.nz

COVID-19 Healthline number

0800 358 5453