Omicron Update | Changes to Mask Protocols

As Omicron cases increase and the country settles into the red setting of the traffic light system, changes have been made to New Zealand's mask-wearing protocol.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced several changes to face mask rules in the red setting of the Covid Protection Framework. The changes affect those visiting food and drink businesses and other close proximity settings, as well as some primary and secondary students and workplaces with vaccine mandates in place.

The changes come into force in eight days and include:

  • Masks must now be worn at food and drink businesses and close-proximity businesses, events, and gatherings. The existing exception of when you are eating or drinking still applies. The changes did not apply to non-public facing workplaces, swimming pools and gatherings where you have the exclusive use of a premises.

"We are, for instance, asking people at restaurants when they enter, when they get up to use the bathroom to use masks," Ardern said.

  • Face coverings now must be an actual mask as opposed to scarves, bandannas or T-shirts pulled up over the face, for example.

"This is to ensure it is a mask that is designed to cover your nose and mouth properly."

  • All workers who are legally mandated to be vaccinated must also wear a medical-grade mask. For example, a Type 2R or Level 2 mask or above while working in public-facing roles. That included the widely available blue medical grade that many were already wearing, Ardern said.
  • Primary and secondary school students, Year four and up, were already required to wear a mask. For consistency, these students would now need to wear a mask on Ministry of Education-funded school transport services and public transport.

The changes would come into force from the 2nd of February, allowing workplaces time to prepare. The ministry would also update guidance on masks for the public, Ardern said, including how to safely reuse masks safely and ensure the best fit.

Learn about the differences between mask types here.