Coronavirus: What you need to know about self-isolation

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an unprecedented set of announcements on Saturday in response to the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus - everyone entering New Zealand from 1am on March 16 will have to enter self-isolation for 14 days.

If you're due to arrive in New Zealand after this date or forced to enter self-isolation because you become symptomatic, it's important to know what you can and can't do during this period.

Here is some guidance on what you can and can't do during self-isolation.

What is self-isolation

The Ministry of Health defines self-isolation as "staying away from situations where you could infect other people".

This means avoiding any situation where you could come into close contact with others, including social gatherings, work, school, university, faith-based gatherings, restaurants, health care facilities and all public gatherings. Close contact is any face-to-face contact closer than one metre for more than 15 minutes with people.

Living with others

If you live with others who aren't self-isolating, you can still live under the same roof but there are some restrictions.

You should minimise or avoid any situations where you may have close contact with them.

You also shouldn't share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, pillows or any other items with others in your house. After using these items, they need to be washed thoroughly with soap and water, put in a dishwasher for cleaning or washed in a washing machine.

The other people in your household don't need to self-isolate as long as these precautions are followed.

Public transport

When going into self-isolation, you may need to travel across New Zealand to reach where you'll be staying, for example by plane, train or bus. If possible, try and sit in a window seat in a row by yourself. If you're unwell, the Ministry of Health's Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield says you shouldn't travel domestically.

While travelling make sure to use hand sanitiser regularly and disinfect surfaces with a wet wipe when necessary. If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth or nose, or sneeze into your sleeve. For extra precaution, you can wear a face mask.

If you're in self-isolation but need to use public transport, you can do so but you should avoid travelling when it's crowded or rush hour. The Ministry of Health also recommends minimising your use of taxis and ride-sharing apps such as Uber.

Getting food and medicine

Where it's possible, ask a friend or family member to go supermarket shopping and run errands on your behalf. Ordering groceries online could also be an option.

The golden rule is to not have close contact with people or in any way potentially spread disease.

Taking care of your wellbeing

During a two-week isolation period, the Ministry of Health says it's normal to feel stressed or lonely, but there are some ways you can make yourself feel better.

You can reach out to regular supports such as family and friends to talk about how you're feeling. It's also recommended you stick to a routine including having regular mealtimes, bedtimes and taking exercise.

But if you feel you aren't coping, the ministry recommends calling or texting 1737 - a free, 24/7 service - to chat with a trained counsellor.