New Zealand has been in the Red traffic light setting since the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was detected in the community. The purpose of Red is to protect vulnerable communities and the health system from Covid-19.

Red has three phases – we’re now in Phase Three, in which we see thousands of new community cases of Omicron each day. At Phase Three, the focus is on self-management of Covid-19.

  • Anyone with symptoms must get a test.
  • You need to keep your own records.
  • Follow standard processes for operating safely (see below).

Read: What symptoms to look out for

Find out more about life at Red


Testing is free if it is part of the public health response. This includes if you:

  • have symptoms
  • are a Household Contact
  • are a critical worker and need a test to go to work
  • are part of the healthcare and emergency service workforce
  • require a test for domestic travel or to attend court
  • do a job where mandatory testing applies
  • have been told to get one by a health professional.

In many cases you will receive a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). These provide a test result within about 20 minutes and can be self-administered, whereas PCR test results take 2-6 days to be returned.

RATs are now available from private retailers. You can also order these online at Unite against Covid-19 if you have symptoms. You should report the results regardless of whether you test positive or negative. You can do this online through My Covid Record or by calling the helpline.

Order RAT tests online

What type of contact are you?

In many cases, people will know if they have Covid-19 before being contacted by the Ministry of Health. They will also know whether they are ‘household contact’ or ‘close contact’.

People who have tested positive for Covid-19 need to isolate for 7 days from their ‘Day Zero’. This is the day they first experienced symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19.

  • A ‘household contact’ is someone who lives with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 and who has spent at least one night or day with the case while they were infectious. Household contacts must still isolate for 7 days from the case’s ‘Day Zero’.
  • The current definition of close contact is narrow and won’t apply in many circumstances.
  • A person who was previously a confirmed case and has finished their 7 days of isolation is not considered a household contact for one month after their first day of isolation, even if someone else in their household becomes a confirmed case.

Read: What defines a close contact

See flowchart that helps you identify what type of contact you are

How to operate safely?

The Ministry of Health has provided a step-by-step guide for businesses for managing Covid-19 in the workplace. This includes information about keeping staff informed and contact tracing.

Read: Guide for businesses – Managing Covid-19 in the workplace

If one of your workers tests positive for Covid-19 and has been at your workplace while infectious, there are standard processes to be followed.

You will be told by your employee directly and then you should:

  • Inform any Health and Safety Managers and/or Occupational Health Managers within the organisation if you have them
  • Isolate spaces that this person may have spent significant time in and ensure cleaning is undertaken before they are able to be used.

Read: Covid-19 – General cleaning and disinfection advice

  • Follow the advice in the step-by-step guide for businesses, on what to do if an employee tests positive for Covid-19 in your business or workplace
  • Protect the privacy of your employee. Their name must not be shared without their consent
  • Follow advice provided in the step-by-step Guide for businesses on how to communicate with your employees.

Read: Guide for businesses – What to do if an employee tests positive for Covid-19

Contact tracing – it's up to you

You and your staff are still responsible for contact tracing – and you will still need to share your contact tracing information with the Ministry of Health.

The simplest way to keep track of your movements is using the NZ Covid Tracer app. You can then share this information online through a contact tracing form or be interviewed by one of the Ministry’s contact tracers.

Information relating to identified cases will be held by the Public Health Unit and the Ministry of Health but personal information will not be disclosed.

Read guidance for workplaces with staff impacted by Covid-19

Find out more about contact tracing

Framework for Traffic Light settings

Many firms will already have spent time figuring out their response to the traffic light settings. If not, you may want to download the Covid-19 Protection Framework summary table or detailed table.

Download summary table

Download detailed table

Keep an eye on Unite against Covid-19 website as the country’s response to the pandemic is continuously evolving.

Visit: Unite against Covid-19 website