The coronavirus outbreak, now known as COVID-19, has triggered an unprecedented flow of conflicting information. As we have seen, we're experiencing a rapidly changing situation so it is important to stay informed through reliable sources as information is updated — some of which you'll find listed below in the section Staying up to date.
What is it and what are the symptoms?
According to Health.govt.nz, COVID-19 (formerly known as “novel coronavirus”) is a new illness caused by a type of coronavirus that can affect lungs and airways.
Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath and a high temperature of at least 38°C. It’s important to note that these symptoms are similar to other common illnesses like cold and flu. Visit www.health.govt.nz for more information.
How long does it take for symptoms to show?
The New Zealand Ministry of Health says it’s not yet known how long coronavirus symptoms take to show after a person has been infected. However, "current World Health Organisation assessments suggest that it is 2-10 days". As New Zealand microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles pointed out, the period between being exposed and showing symptoms could be as long as two weeks – which is why 14-day isolation is recommended for people who may have contracted the virus.
How does it spread?
COVID-19 spreads from person to person. According to the NZ Ministry of Health this can happen when someone comes into contact with “respiratory droplets” from an infected person, or when they touch infected surfaces or objects and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.
How can you protect yourself and your family?
Experts state that basic protection measures are crucial. Here are some steps you should take, according to Health.govt.nz:
• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues..
• Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
• Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
• Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
• Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food, with sick people.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
• Stay home if you feel unwell.
• Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with COVID-19.
For the latest information on protecting yourself and your loved ones, including information about self-isolation, visit www.health.govt.nz.
Is there a vaccine?
As Dr Wiles explained, one key difference between COVID-19 and standard flu is that there’s no vaccine for the former. This, according to Dr Wiles, makes comparatively more people susceptible to it. “They are two very, very different viruses, from very different families.”
The NZ Ministry of Health is constantly updating its health advice page here, including news about treatment and immunisation. At the time of writing, the page states that researchers are in the early stages of developing a vaccine.
How to manage coronavirus in the workplace
Business.gov.nz has a dedicated page on coronavirus, with up-to-date information and insights to help New Zealand businesses manage risk.
For specific guidelines on how to handle self-isolation and sick leave, please check out “Workplace response to coronavirus (COVID-19)” on the Employment New Zealand’s website. The guidance answers questions like:
• What should I do if a worker is sick?
• What if paid sick leave is not available?
• What if a worker has been advised to self-isolate under public health guidance though may not be sick – or they believe they are at risk of spreading the coronavirus but have not been officially advised to self-isolate?
As the situation evolves, it’s important to stay informed and alert – but make sure you don’t rely on unverified information. Below are some useful links to bookmark:
• World Health Organisation
• NZ Ministry of Health
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current development or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.