Coronavirus: Be prepared to wear a mask if needed, health minister says

The Government is urging people to add face masks to their household emergency kits, in case there’s further community transmission of Covid-19.

“The World Health Organisation suggests that people should be prepared for the use of masks before the need to use them arises,” Health Minister Chris Hipkins said at a briefing on Thursday.

“So the ministry is now recommending that as part of collective preparations for any future outbreak of Covid-19, households add sufficient masks for everybody normally resident in their household to their emergency supply kits.”

Those masks did not need to be medical grade. They could be reusable or the single use masks seen online and in shops, he said.


“Masks will be most useful when Covid-19 is present in the community and people are mingling in close proximity to each other, like at work or in social situations.

“Currently at Alert Level 1, which is where we’re at today, it is not necessary for the public to wear masks because there is no evidence of community transmission here in New Zealand,” Hipkins said.

The Director-General of Health says unchecked community transmission could see NZ end up like Australia.

“If we move to Alert Level 2, the public will be encouraged to wear masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transport or in shops.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews departs a Covid-19 news conference in Australia wearing a mask.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews departs a Covid-19 news conference in Australia wearing a mask.

“If there are further outbreaks of Covid-19 masks will be another important component in our strategy for containing the spread of the virus so that we can, if at all possible, avoid further lockdowns.”

Mask wearing would be in addition to physical distancing, hand hygiene, and for people with Covid-19 symptoms to avoid contact with others.

Public awareness campaigns on mask wearing would be run in the coming weeks, Hipkins said.

“We’ve seen elsewhere that masks can play a role in helping us to reduce the spread of Covid-19 when worn by the public where there are cases of community transmission.”