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

As of 11.59pm on Wednesday 19 November 2020, the use of masks or face coverings is mandatory for:

  • people travelling on public transport services in, into and out of the Auckland region 
  • the drivers of small passenger service vehicles in Auckland, such as taxis and app-based ride services 
  • people travelling on passenger flights throughout New Zealand.

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 18 November 2020

When should I wear a mask or face covering?

As of 11.59pm Wednesday 18 November, face masks or face coverings are now mandatory on all public transport in the Auckland region, and all passenger flights throughout New Zealand. Find out more here.

Masks or face coverings should also be worn in COVID-19 Alert Levels 2 and above 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 - In most situations you will not need to wear a mask because there is no evidence of community transmission however, masks or face coverings are mandatory for public transport services in the Auckland region, and all passenger flights throughout New Zealand. Find out more here.
  • 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 – however unless you are delivering or accessing essential services, there will be very limited freedom of movement in public places. 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