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

At Orange and Red traffic light settings, you legally must wear a face covering if you are a customer or an employee involving customer contact at a business or service. The Ministry of Health also strongly encourages New Zealanders to wear a mask or face covering whenever they leave their home at Orange and Red settings. 

Face masks or face coverings are also mandatory on all public transport at Orange and Red settings, and on passenger flights throughout New Zealand at all traffic light settings.

If you have a respiratory condition that makes wearing a face mask unsuitable, you can request an exemption card from the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ by contacting them on 04 801 9100 or emailing them at

Find out more about mask requirements and recommendations at each traffic light setting here

Last updated Tuesday 21 December 2021

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