Coronavirus outbreak

Please read to the end of this page for the latest information and University updates.

The most recent updates are in a grey box.

Update: Friday 21 February 2020

Saturday 15 February: The NZ Government extended the entry restrictions into NZ on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through, mainland China for a further eight days until Monday 24 February 2020.  

Sunday 9 February: The Ministry of Health (MoH) has updated the following support services:

  • A new dedicated 0800 number has been set up for questions and concerns about coronavirus. The new number is 0800 358 5453  (or +64 9 358 5453 for overseas SIMs). The number is free to call, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will be staffed by members of the National Telehealth Service with interpreters on hand to help with translation.
  • MoH now has a dedicated Facebook page @minhealthnz, as well as a Twitter channel @minhealthnz. These will be used to alert people to key updates and messaging specifically about coronavirus.

Sunday 9 February: MoH has also updated its guidance on self-isolation and what to do. Visit the MoH website for the latest advice.

Tuesday 4 February: the University sent an update to all its students. You can read the message here. A message was also sent to all staff on Wednesday 5 February.

Confirmed cases of the virus have now been identified in 29 countries and territories.

Monday 3 February: the NZ Government imposed entry restrictions into NZ on all foreign nationals travelling from, or transiting through, mainland China.

Read the full Government statement: New Zealand to restrict travel from China to protect against coronavirus.


Also added in this update:

Should I wear a mask?

On Friday 31 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern'.

No cases of the virus have yet been identified in New Zealand, however the Ministry of Health advises that the likelihood of that happening is “high” due to the rapid spread of the virus to other countries. It added that the likelihood of a sustained community outbreak of the disease in New Zealand “remains low”, due to this country’s readiness to deal with it.

We will continue to take a precautionary approach, and will follow any infectious disease protocols advised by the New Zealand Ministries of Health and Education. Our aim is to minimise the spread of the virus if it does reach us and to support those who might be affected by it.

This is rapidly changing situation, so the following FAQs will be updated regularly as we identify issues and learn more about this virus.

Additional University staff-specific FAQs are available on the staff intranet (Staff only)

What do I need to know?

Should I use a face mask?

Current advice shows that hand washing, hygiene and good cough etiquette are far more effective than face masks for reducing the spread of this virus.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) recommends that there may be benefits in wearing a face mask and goggles for surgical, clinical and health-care settings to reduce the spread of infection from people with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, but not for the general population unless there is a severe epidemic. For the general public in everyday situations, face masks are not recommended, as there is limited evidence that their use prevents the transmission of disease.

If you choose to wear a face mask, and get comfort from it, then the University supports your right to do this. Additionally, we should also respect the rights of others who choose to wear their own masks.

In particular, please be aware that in many cultures, including from Asia, face masks are worn by people routinely as a courtesy to those around them, and for guarding against pollution and pollen. If you see someone wearing a face mask, it’s as likely they are being considerate towards you, rather than protecting themselves.

Refer to the Ministry of Health guidance document around use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for infection control for more information (PDF).

Is coronavirus in New Zealand?

No cases of the virus have yet been identified in New Zealand, however the NZ Ministry of Health advises that the likelihood of a confirmed case in New Zealand is “high” due to the rapid spread of the virus to other countries. It added that the likelihood of a sustained community outbreak of the disease in New Zealand “remains low”, due to this country’s readiness to deal with it.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Symptoms reported for patients with coronavirus include mild to severe respiratory illness, similar to influenza. This includes:

  • Fever; and
  • Respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing

What is the case definition of a suspected case of coronavirus?

The current case definition used by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is anyone who has the symptoms listed above, who has travelled from mainland China in the last 14 days OR who has been in contact with a suspected case of the virus overseas.

What can I do to protect myself?

The best advice is to practise good hygiene and hand-washing techniques, including:

  • Washing hands thoroughly (at least 20 seconds) with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser
  • Coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue (rather than onto your hands), and then putting the used tissue straight into the rubbish and washing your hands
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone who has fever and a cough
  • Staying at home or in your University residence room if you have flu-like symptoms (more information below)

What should I do if I think I have the virus?

If you are unwell and meet the case definition above then you should contact Healthline at 0800 358 5453 or your GP for medical advice (do this by phone rather than attending in person).

As a precaution, you must stay away from the University for a period of 14 days.

If you are a student staying in the University’s accommodation, please stay in your room for a period of 14 days and inform your residence staff immediately of your condition. You also need to ensure that your condition is discussed with a doctor at Student Health, unless you have a GP in Auckland. Please also complete the online form and a staff member will be in contact with you to discuss how we can best support and care for you during this time.

To enable the University to provide students and staff with the best support and guidance (including any concerns you might have about missed classes, fees, visa issues, sick leave and so on) we ask you also to complete the online form so that we can contact you directly.

What should I do if I think someone else at the University has the virus?

To date, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, and the chances of any individual here having the virus are very small.

If you are concerned about someone, please encourage them to seek medical advice by calling Healthline at 0800 358 5453 or contacting their GP.

Should students and staff with flu-like symptoms attend class/work?

No, all respiratory viruses are highly contagious to others and you should not be at work or attending classes until you have recovered. If you meet the case definition for coronavirus (above) then you must stay at home, or stay in your University residence room, for a period of 14 days and contact Healthline at 0800 358 5453 or your GP for medical advice (do this by phone rather than attending in person).

What should I do if I have recently travelled to an affected region?

The University is following the guidance of the NZ Government on this issue:

  • For anyone who may be at high risk of exposure because they have recently been to mainland China or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with the virus, you must stay at home, or stay in your University residence room, for a period of 14 days and contact Healthline at 0800 358 5453 or your GP for medical advice (do this by phone rather than attending in person).
  • To enable the University to provide you (both students and staff) with the best support and guidance (including any concerns you might have about missed classes, fees, visa issues, sick leave and so on) we ask you also to complete a simple online form so that we can contact you directly.

Support for affected students

Will Semester One start as planned?

Yes, Semester One will start on 2 March as planned. The University is looking forward to welcoming students and we are busy organising orientation events, opening new halls of residence and preparing for the first classes on 2 March. There are no changes to our start dates or timetable resulting from coronavirus restrictions. 

What should I do if I’m unable to get back to campus in time for the start of Semester One?

The first thing you should do is register with us via the online form. This will enable us to contact you directly and work with you to develop a personalised study plan that will allow you to study offshore for the first few weeks of Semester One – until you’re able to get here in person.

What should I do if I’m unable to get to campus in time for the start of my research degree?

Please register with us via the online form. This will enable us to contact you directly and work with you to develop a personalised study plan that might allow you to study offshore for the next few weeks, until you’re able to get here in person. If the nature of your research means that this is possible, we can work with you and your supervisor to defer the start of your research programme.

What will the personalised study plan involve?

Each study plan will be different for each student, depending on your course of study, stage of progress and so on. The study plan might include online material or supervision sessions, additional tutorial support and even alternative assessment arrangements. For course work students, we’ll also assign you a study buddy to help keep you on track. 

We will make every effort to put a study plan in place for you unless we are unable to develop one that can support you appropriately – and it will only be a temporary measure until you can get to New Zealand. 

What happens if I find the study plan doesn’t work for me?

If you get underway with your course work and then decide it just isn’t working, you’ll have until 9 April 2020 to withdraw from your enrolled courses and receive a full refund. For all other students that date is 13 March 2020.

For students due to start in Quarter Two, the Add/Drop deadline for those affected by the travel ban has been extended to 15 May 2020 (for other students it is 24 April).

To be eligible for these later withdrawal dates, you will need to:   

  • Register with us now via the online form.        
  • Be able to demonstrate that you’ve been unable to get back to New Zealand due to coronavirus restrictions.        
  • Have engaged with the personalised study plan option and given it a go. 

If you get underway or resume your research programme and then decide it just isn’t working, contact the School of Graduate Studies to arrange for a suspension of your studies.      

Will personalised study plans be available for all courses?

No, study plans will not be practical for all programmes or courses and some of you may need to defer your enrolment until Semester Two, or suspend your research programme for a month or two. If so, we want to explore with you how we can minimise the impact. For example, you may be eligible for free courses during Summer School 2021 to help you catch up. But course work students need to register with us via the online form before the start of Semester One 2020 to be eligible for this and other possible options. If you’re doing a research degree, register with us via the online form, and the School of Graduate Studies will work with you to arrange an appropriate suspension of your programme.

What happens if I’m not able to complete my English Language test before arriving in New Zealand?

We realise that it isn’t possible to complete English Language tests in China right now. If you currently have an offer of place that is conditional only on an English Language test, and you have registered with us via the online form, you will shortly receive a firm offer of place from the University that will enable you to apply for your study visa. Once you arrive in New Zealand we will arrange for your English language to be assessed here. If the assessment indicates you require additional English tuition before starting you academic programme, the University will provide up to ten weeks of English Language tuition, without additional fees, through the University’s English Language Academy. And of course we’ll also work with you to get a personalised study plan in place to help you catch up with your studies. 

The same eligibility conditions as above apply here: you’ll need to register with us now via the online form, and be able to demonstrate that you have been affected by the coronavirus travel restrictions.  

We understand this is a difficult time for those of you who are unable to get to campus from China but we are confident we can get you working on your 2020 study with minimal disruption. We look forward to having you with us.

University student accommodation

If I’m coming from China or have visited China in the last 14 days what will be asked of me by accommodation?

If you a have a local support base in Auckland it is recommended that you stay with them for the first 14 days. However if you do not have that option you will be asked to isolate yourself in accommodation for 14 days.

If you are living in a studio unit, the accommodation staff can ensure that food orders are delivered to your unit. If you are living in shared self-catered accommodation, staff can arrange for prepared meals to be delivered to you. These will be charged to you at cost. You will be asked to use a specific bathroom and accommodation staff will arrange for additional cleaning.

If you are living in catered accommodation, the accommodation staff will deliver your meals to you. You will be asked to use a specific bathroom and accommodation will arrange for additional cleaning.

If I can't leave China, will you hold my accommodation place without incurring fees?

Once your contract starts you will be liable for any costs incurred. Due to this unique situation, if you cancel any time before the contract begins you will get a full refund, including the deposit.

If I cancel my room now will I be able to get a room later?

If you have cancelled your room and you then need student accommodation later this semester, you will be given priority placement on any places available.

If you want to return in Semester Two 2020 you will be considered before other students provided you apply by 24 April 2020.

If I am unable to attend the University will I get a full room refund?

If you cancel after the contract starts, you will be charged the regular room rate until you make the decision to cancel, at which time you can cancel with a 2 week cancellation penalty.

Is there temporary accommodation available for students who arrive from China and cannot access their private accommodation arrangements?

The University may at the time have some accommodation options available, however students requesting a full semester or year will be given priority over those who are only looking for short term accommodation.

Accommodation Solutions has an advisory service to assist you with finding a short term option.

Potential impact on University life

International travel – are there any groups of travellers who may be at greater risk?

Healix, one of the University’s international travel emergency assistance providers, has identified certain groups of people who may be at greater risk of developing severe disease if they become infected with the coronavirus, based on available information and understanding of how other respiratory virus illnesses behave:

  • those with chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease
  • individuals with diabetes
  • anyone who is immunosuppressed or who has reduced function of the spleen
  • pregnant women
  • anyone with significant obesity (body mass index ≥40)
  • persons under the age of 12 or over 60

Staff or students who fall into any of the above groups may wish to consider carefully their need to travel to areas where there are known cases of coronavirus, and will be supported by the University in their decision. As always, no one should undertake international travel against the advice of their doctor.

What happens if travel restrictions mean I cannot return to New Zealand? What should I do?

If you are unable to return to New Zealand as planned, please let us know the details by completing the online form so that we can contact you directly and help you make arrangements that will minimise the impact on you and your studies.

The University is working urgently to assess the situation and its implications, and will do everything in its power to help you continue your studies (or work) with as little disruption as possible.

You are valued members of our University community, and we want you here.

What happens if this situation disrupts my course work?

We are aware that existing and future quarantine and travel restrictions might interrupt some people’s ability to attend the University in the coming weeks, and that some of you will be concerned about course work, fees, visas and so on. We want to reassure you that the University will do everything it can to ensure that none of our students or staff is disadvantaged by this situation. If you have any concerns, please complete this online form so that we can contact you directly.

What happens if this situation disrupts my research degree?

We are aware that existing and future quarantine and travel restrictions might interrupt some people’s ability to attend the University in the coming weeks, and that some of you will be concerned about your research degree, fees, visas and so on. We want to reassure you that the University will do everything it can to ensure that none of our students or staff is disadvantaged by this situation. If you have any concerns, please complete this online form so that we can contact you directly.

What happens if this situation disrupts the oral examination of my PhD?

We are aware that existing and future quarantine and travel restrictions might interrupt some people’s ability to attend the University in the coming weeks. We want to reassure you that the University will do everything it can to ensure that none of our students is disadvantaged by this situation. If the oral exam for your PhD is due to take place soon, you may be able to attend by video conference or it may be appropriate for us to defer the exam for a few weeks. If you’re in this situation, please complete this online form so that we can contact you directly.

Are there travel restrictions in place for University travel overseas?

Yes, as follows:

  • In line with NZ Government advice, all travel to or through mainland China is not permitted under any circumstances until further notice.
  • Travel to other international destinations is permitted, and no additional approval will be required except for destinations or transit locations that MFAT rates as ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or ‘do not travel’ (as per the current travel policy).
  • Our current travel prohibition to or through Hong Kong remains in place.

Individual communication will be sent to travellers who have already booked travel to affected areas where new restrictions are in place. If you have any questions about planned travel or want to discuss approval of essential travel to affected areas please contact travelapproval@auckland.ac.nz

Information about coronavirus

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to infect people and cause respiratory illness. Coronaviruses are one of the common causes of the common cold; other coronaviruses include SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), which have both caused serious outbreaks in recent decades.

In January 2020 a new (‘novel’) form of coronavirus called COVID-19 (previously called 2019-nCoV), originating in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China, was identified as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia-like illness.

How widespread is the coronavirus outbreak?

At the time of the latest update to this page (Friday 21 February):

  • Confirmed cases of the virus have been identified in 30 countries or territories
  • There are nearly 77,000 confirmed cases, with 2,247 deaths

Is coronavirus likely to reach New Zealand?

The NZ Ministry of Health advises that the likelihood of a confirmed case in New Zealand is “high” due to the rapid spread of the virus to other countries. It added that the likelihood of a sustained community outbreak of the disease in New Zealand “remains low”, due to this country’s readiness to deal with it.

Is there a vaccine or recommended treatment?

Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19, and no anti-viral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection.

People infected with the virus should receive care to help relieve the symptoms. Contact Healthline at 0800 358 5453 (calls within New Zealand are free, including from mobile phones) or your GP for medical advice (do this by phone rather than attending in person).