Skip to main content Site Map

There is currently COVID-19 in our community which means some changes to our hospitals and clinics. Find out moreAs always, we're here if you need us.

Stay well this winter

The Ministry of Health is encouraging New Zealanders to look after their health and to do their bit to reduce pressure on the health system through what will be a challenging winter.

Omicron continues to circulate in the community and open borders will bring new COVID-19 variants, flu, and other infectious illnesses, putting additional pressure on the entire health system including GP practices, pharmacies, community health clinics, emergency ambulances as well as emergency departments.

The Ministry of Health’s Health System Preparedness Programme Clinical Advisor, Dr Joe Bourne, says that while winter is always busy for local health providers, it is likely that this season will see increased pressure on the health system with the possibility of more COVID-19 and influenza in the community, as well as illnesses we haven’t seen for some time, such as measles and whooping cough.

‘After two years of closed borders, our immunity to these illnesses will be low and we need to do all we can to keep ourselves and our whānau healthy,’ says Dr Bourne.

‘We also need to alleviate pressure on the entire health system to ensure that our hospitals, general practices, ambulance services and urgent care centres are all available when they’re needed by people with urgent medical problems.

‘Everyone can do their bit to reduce pressure on health services by ensuring they keep themselves well during winter. If you haven’t got your COVID-19 vaccination, do it now. If you’re due for your COVID-19 booster, get it now. If you haven’t been vaccinated against the flu, do it now, it’s not too late. This will help ensure health services are available for those who really need urgent care.

‘Vaccination is the best defence against many preventable illnesses. It’s essential that we are all up-to-date with our protection for flu, COVID-19 and other illnesses like measles.’

Dr Bourne says there are a number of simple actions people can take to help safeguard their personal health this winter as well.

‘Based on what we’ve learned from living with COVID-19 over the past two years, wearing a face mask indoors, when shopping or on public transport, as well as keeping up our hand hygiene will help protect us and prevent the spread of illnesses to the people around us.

‘We can boost our immunity against illness by eating healthy foods, staying active, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s important to look after our mental health too. 

‘If you do get sick, please stay at home. Remember, the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are very similar so it’s important to get a COVID-19 test and to log the results – negative or positive – on the My Covid Record website(). This enables us to track how COVID-19 is spreading in our communities and where to direct resources.

‘Once you’ve recovered and are out of isolation, you can have flu and MMR vaccinations, and then after a three-month-wait you can get your next COVID-19 vaccination. Even if you have had COVID-19, it is still important to get boosted to lower your risk of serious illness if you catch it again.’

Dr Bourne says there are many minor ailments that can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, so people who are not seriously ill are encouraged to seek advice from their local pharmacist. 

‘These measures will help our GPs and primary health care providers to focus on supporting those who are at most risk of becoming seriously unwell this winter.’

Stay well this winter

The Ministry of Health recommends people take the following steps to stay well this winter, and to encourage their whānau, friends and colleagues to do the same: 

  • Stay at home if you are unwell. If you have symptoms of COVID-19() take a COVID-19 test. If your symptoms worsen, or you are concerned about the health of yourself or someone you’re caring for, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or your doctor/healthcare provider. Calls to Healthline are free and the service operates 24/7 with interpreters available
  • Call 111 if you have an emergency. If your situation is less urgent consider calling Healthline on 0800 611 116 or your local GP. 
  • Wear a face mask when on public transport, in indoor settings like retail stores and supermarkets, when in poorly ventilated spaces or when it is hard to physically distance from other people. 
  • Maintain good hand hygiene by washing and drying your hands thoroughly or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.  
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your face, dispose of tissues in a waste bin immediately and wash or sanitise your hands.
  • Develop a winter plan for your whānau so family members know what to do if people become unwell. Familiarise yourself with what is expected of you by your employer if you become sick yourself.  
  • Get your Winter Wellness Kit together: eg, painkillers, a thermometer, tissues, enough food and household items for a few days, and a good stock of the regular medicines you or your whānau will need. Honey is helpful to have on hand for a sore throat.
  • Eat well and stay active. Nutrition and physical activity play an important part in our overall health and wellbeing, including our bodies’ ability to fight off illness. Getting a good night’s sleep also helps.
  • Make sure you and your whānau are up to date with all available vaccinations against infectious diseases like flu; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); chicken pox; whooping cough (pertussis); pneumococcal diseases and COVID-19. 

Last modified:

← Back to the news