Key messages


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Links to where to find the latest information​

  • The Government has launched a WhatsApp channel​ for people to find information about COVID-19.

  • The Government has set up a daily email update for the public – subscribe here. This will be sent at 5.30-6pm daily, and will contain the latest news, FAQs and resources.​

New Zealand is at Alert Level 2

Life at Alert Level 2 means we can resume many of our everyday activities — but we have to do so safely.

  • Most businesses can open if they can do it safely. This will help to get people back to work.
  • We can go in-store at local businesses.
  • Tertiary education facilities, schools and early learning centres will be open.
  • We can travel between regions.
  • Initially gatherings like weddings, funerals, tangihanga, religious ceremonies and social gatherings can have up to 10 people.
  • We can safely connect and socialise with close friends and family, in groups of 10.
  • We can visit local cafes and restaurants bars and pubs to have a meal.
  • We can return to our regular recreation activities, at first keeping to 10 people.​

Play it safe​

These are the most important things that you can do:

  • COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe.
  • Keep your distance from other people in public.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
  • If you have symptoms of cold or flu call your doctor or Healthline and get tested.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, regularly disinfect surfaces.
  • If you have been told to self-isolate you must do so immediately.
  • Keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen.​

Welfare Assistance 

General Information for vulnerable people is available:

  • The Otago COVID-19 Helpline will continue to operate at Alert Level 2 from 9am-5pm daily. Those who cannot access daily essential such as food, pet food, or medicines should contact 0800 322 4000 or email



If you or somebody you live with develops symptoms of COVID-19 like a cough, fever, shortness of breath, sneezing or a runny nose, they should call their regular doctor. If you can’t access a GP call 0800 847 8719 (that’s 0800 VIRUS19). This number is helping streamline assessment and possible testing for COVID-19 in the Southern region. ​

  • More detailed guidance has been developed for people who are at higher risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 and over (70+) and/or have certain existing health conditions. Visit here​ for more details. ​​​

  • It's important that people do not neglect potentially serious health conditions because of concerns around COVID-19. If you or your family are unwell contact your GP or Healthline (non-COVID specific - 0800 611 116). Don’t delay seeking medical care for things other than COVID-19 symptoms. Don’t be concerned about needing to go to a medical facility – they’ll keep you away from patients with COVID-19 symptoms.​ Call 111 in a medical emergency.​​

COVID-19 Testing

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, we need you to get tested immediately.  You are not over-reacting, you will be helping keep yourself, your whānau and your community safe. Now that we're all moving around a lot more it is vital that anyone in the district with any symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, or any flu-like symptoms should stay at home, and contact Healthline or their GP to organise a COVID-19 test. In addition to general practices, testing is available at Community Based Assessment Centre​s or designated practices in the region by calling 0800 VIRUS19 (0800847 8719). Testing is free.

These people should stay at home until the result of their test is available.  If the test is positive, they must stay in isolation until declared recovered  and their immediate close contacts should also self-isolate.

COVID-19 symptoms are similar to a range of other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu, and do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. They include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of smell.​

Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.​

Mental health and wellbeing

Wellbeing is a continuum and we're likely to find ourselves at various points over the coming weeks and months. As well as resources on the COVID19 website, there is lots of useful information online through organisations including the Mental Health Foundation ( and the Health Promotion Agency ( 

  • It’s ok to feel stressed or anxious. If you feel you are not coping, it’s important to seek help and professional support. Your family doctor is a good starting point. For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text the 'Need to talk?' service on 1737. This service is free, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and gives you the chance to talk it through with a trained counsellor​

  • 'Sparklers at Home' has some great ideas and advice for parents and caregivers with children which has been designed to support learning and wellbeing. It includes everything from how to talk about Covid-19, to simple ideas for staying grounded, managing big emotions and feeling calm during our time spent in our bubbles.​​

Self isolation

At Alert Level 2, people who are probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, or who are a close contact of a case, will have to self-isolate for 14 days, or until cleared by a doctor.

  • People arriving from overseas will continue to be placed in managed-isolation for 14 days, or quarantine if they are showing symptoms.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested — contact your doctor or Healthline.​
More here:

Gatherings and events

Gatherings and events create a very high risk of transmitting COVID-19. At Alert Level 2, we are keeping tight restrictions on gatherings. 

  • We can safely connect and socialise with close friends and family, in groups of 10. ​

  • Play it safe for gatherings inside your home — keep surfaces clean, wash your hands, and keep the numbers low so you can practice safe physical distancing.

  • All gatherings should record attendees to ensure contact tracing can be conducted if necessary. 

  • Up to 50 people are allowed at funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 2.​ Funeral directors can seek approval to allow up to 50 people to attend a funeral or tangihanga. The Ministry of Health must be satisfied that a range of public health measures can consistently be met, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and no food and drink congregations afterwards.​
  • You can’t participate in any gatherings or events if you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you need to be in isolation/quarantine for any reason.​​

Rules for business premises at Alert Level 2

  • COVID-19 is still out there. Play it safe.
  • Only open if you can operate safely.
  • Talk with your workers about identifying and managing risks.
  • Don’t admit anyone with symptoms onto your premises.
  • Keep groups of customers and workers 1 metre apart.
  • Keep contact-tracing records.
  • Reduce the number of, and regularly disinfect, shared surfaces.
  • Ensure workers can wash their hands frequently.​

Reporting breaches of Alert Level 2 restrictions

Members of the community concerned about breaches under Alert Level 2 can register these via a special online form. Five agencies – Ministry of Health, WorkSafe, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Police and Ministry for Primary Industries – have combined to provide a comprehensive approach to compliance.

The online form makes it easy for these agencies to understand what the concern is, and who is best to respond. You can find the form on the Covid-19 website here​.

People who do not have access to the internet can still phone 105 to report their concern​s.​​

Shopping and businesses

At Alert Level 2 businesses can have customers on their premises if they can meet public health requirements. This means businesses should:

  • have good contact registers, or contact tracing records, in place to record everyone who you interact with on your premises
  • maintain physical distancing of 1 metre between groups of customers, or 2 metres if not possible to keep contact tracing records
  • not have groups larger than 10 people
  • maintain a 2 hour time limit for customers to be on your premises.

Services can also be provided on customers’ premises, for example, cleaning and home help.

Most businesses can open their premises to the public:

  • cafes, restaurants, and bars for dining
  • hardware, gardening, and clothing retailers
  • butchers, bakeries, and fishmongers.
  • Hospitality businesses should keep groups seated, separated, and use a single server if possible. This means each group has one server, though servers can each serve more than one table.​

Exercise and going out

Recreation and exercise is important for everyone's mental health. You can do your usual exercise, sport and recreation activities, provided you can do them safely.

This includes activities that were restricted previously, including:

  • walking, biking and hunting on public conservation land
  • swimming at a public swimming pool, but there will be restrictions
  • going to the gym, but there will be restrictions
  • boating and motorised watersports
  • hunting during duck shooting season — start date Saturday 23 May.

Avoid narrow walking tracks where you can't keep a 2m distance from people you are passing. Avoid touching things like park benches, handrails, gates or picnic tables. 

Government is working with community sports organisations to work through how sport can be restarted safely.

Transport and travel

You can travel, but make sure you do it in a safe way.

COVID-19 is a disease you can spread without knowing you have it. You can travel around the country if you follow good personal health measures. You will need to keep records of what travel services you use and keep track of who you have been in contact with. You should keep your distance from groups of people you don’t know. You should minimise the number of places you stop on the way to your destination.

  • You must not travel to events which do not meet the requirements for gatherings at Alert Level 2.
  • You must not travel if you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, awaiting a test, or if you need to self-isolate.​
  • All travellers entering New Zealand from overseas are required to undergo fourteen days of isolation in managed isolation in government-provided facilities (hotel) in the city they arrive into, either Auckland or Christchurch. Visit here for more information. ​​


Business & Financial Support

Our 'Support for Business' page has more information about what financial support is available for Waitaki businesses and workers.

  • If you’ve lost your job, can’t work at the moment or your income has been reduced, you may be able to get a benefit or some other financial help from Work and Income. See here for more details. 
  • The Government will make sure essential workers who take leave from work to comply with public health guidance will still receive income.
  • Some essential businesses are still operating while losing business. The Government’s new leave scheme for essential workers​ helps those businesses to pay their workers who need to take leave due to COVID-19.
  • If you’re not sure what assistance may be available or don’t know who to contact for help, visit or call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997
  • At Level 2, there will still be restrictions on workplaces, schools and gatherings to make sure New Zealand continues to win the fight against COVID-19.​
  • Businesses have need to use contact-tracing tools or mechanisms and keep track of supply chain and customers.​

Rural Support

Otago Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) continues to provide its psychosocial support service by talking over the phone or on Skype/Zoom during lockdown.  They can help connect farming families with professionals including farming or business advice, suppliers, financial information, health, and counselling services. Their services are free and confidential, and they can still make connections while NZ is self-isolating.

  • Guidance is going out to farmers about managing under meatworks’ capacity restrictions. See​ for details

  • Industry groups and MPI have launched a stock feed planning service for all farmers nation-wide. Toll free numbers:
    • drystock farmers call 0800 233 352
    • dairy sector 0800 4 324 7969
    • anyone can call 0508 243 477​

  • Mooving Day will go ahead as planned this year, but with strict controls to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Industry groups will be providing further guidance and information to support those dairy farmers who are shifting this season, including ensuring their moves are safe and within their bubbles​

  • Because some rural broadband services share a limited capacity between groups of users, increased demand for these services may cause congestion. As the capacity of many rural services cannot be increased in the short-term, people in rural areas are encouraged to move their use of the internet away from peak hours as much as possible. ​


If you're helping a person at ri​sk of serious health complications from COVID-19 take strict precautions not to risk passing on the virus to them.

  • Kindness is an incredibly powerful way to show you are united against COVID-19. You can make a huge difference by talking to people over the phone or online. These kinds of connections and offers of help will go a long way to getting others through COVID-1
    • Checking in on older relatives or vulnerable people to make sure they have everything they need. 
    • Talking to friends, whānau and neighbours over the phone to see how they are and if they need support. ​

  • If you're interested in volunteering to help others in Otago get through during the COVID-19 emergency, Volunteering Otago are coordinating offers of help on our behalf. They're the experts when it comes to coordinating volunteers so please fill in this form to register your interest: Volunteering in Waitaki​ form​​ 
  • The Southern DHB is asking for volunteers who are health professionals. These people should register their interest

Council Services 

The Waihemo Service Centre in Palmerston and Council Offices in Ōamaru will re-open to the public as of 18 May 2020. All Alert Level 2 protocols for hygiene and safety will be in place including limiting admittance to the building. We suggest people use alternate methods to make payments or access services if they can, to avoid any queues or waiting. Call us on 03 433 0300 or email and we can help you.​

Some of our public facilities remain closed but most Council services will be back to normal but with strict protocols in place. For more information on how council is operating during Alert Level 2 visit our 'Council Services and Facilities' page​.

FAQs and more information​

Visit here for more information on Alert Level 2:

COVID-19 FAQs - Updated 14 May 2020​​ ​[PDF-1MB]

Page reviewed: 22 May 2020 3:49pm