Using face masks in our community and recommendations for those with a respiratory condition

As of 19 August 2021, you legally must wear a face covering if you are a customer or an employee involving customer contact at a business or service operating at Alert Level 4. The Ministry of Health also strongly encourages New Zealanders to wear a mask or face covering whenever they leave their home at Alert Level 4. 

Face masks or face coverings are also now mandatory on all public transport at all Alert Levels, and all passenger flights throughout New Zealand.

Find out more about mask requirements and recommendations at each Alert Level here

There are a number of exemptions including 'a person who has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask or face covering safely or comfortably' - find out more here.

Last updated Wednesday 25 August 2021

When should I wear a mask or face covering?

As of 19 August 2021, you legally must wear a face covering if you are a customer or an employee involving customer contact at a business or service operating at Alert Level 4. The Ministry of Health also strongly encourages New Zealanders to wear a mask or face covering whenever they leave their home at Alert Level 4. 

Face masks or face coverings are also now mandatory on all public transport at all Alert Levels, and all passenger flights throughout New Zealand.

Find out more here

Masks or face coverings should also be worn in any situation where it is not possible to practice physical distancing (for example, in shops, or in any crowded environment). 

  • COVID-19 Alert Level 1 - You legally must wear a face covering on public transport and on domestic flights. The Ministry encourages people to wear face coverings when they cannot maintain physical distance in crowded indoor places, like in supermarkets.
  • COVID-19 Alert Level 2 - You should wear a mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible. Face masks are mandatory on all public transport.
  • COVID-19 Alert Level 3 - It is highly recommended that you wear a mask when you are out in public. This is because the risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher, and there is a risk that it is not contained. 
  • COVID-19 Alert Level 4 - It is highly recommended that you wear a mask when you are out in public, and you legally must wear a face covering if you are a customer or an employee involving customer contact at a business or service operating at Alert Level 4. You should stay at home as much as possible.


Types of masks and face coverings

There are different face masks and coverings available:

  • Medical (NIOSH approved N95 grade or surgical masks).
  • Non-medical-grade face masks.
  • Other face coverings such as a bandana or a scarf can also be used if you do not have a mask.

Face masks for the general public don’t need to be medical grade. Homemade, fabric, reusable and disposable masks) are all suitable. 

However, for those people most at risk of severe health impacts from COVID-19, higher quality masks are recommended if leaving your home. For people who are high risk, staying at home is still the best way to protect yourself.

What types of masks or face coverings should people with respiratory conditions wear?

Respiratory patients most at risk from severe health impacts from COVID-19 are those with uncontrolled or pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as chronic lung disease, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, and people who have severe asthma which needs multiple medications and medical care. 

  • For people with very mild or well-controlled asthma, wearing a face mask should not be an issue.
  • For those who have trouble breathing, severe or poorly controlled asthma with frequent flare-ups, or for those with COPD who are coughing and experiencing significant breathlessness, then it is possible that wearing a face mask could cause discomfort or make it harder to breathe.

People with respiratory conditions can consider:

  • Only wearing a mask for short periods of time, for example if you have to travel to see a health professional or access an essential service.
  • Avoiding travel on public transport, or any situation where you cannot maintain physical distancing and you need to wear a mask or face covering.
  • Using a face mask or face covering that is made of moisture-wicking and breathable fabric (eg. 100% cotton) may make the mask more comfortable to wear.

For more information on the use of face masks or face coverings, visit the New Zealand COVID-19 website here