Becoming ill after arriving in Aotearoa

It’s always exciting when friends or family visit you from overseas – especially if you haven’t seen them for a long time. But that excitement can quickly turn to disappointment if they become sick after they arrive.

Who wants a planned trip to a beautiful location in Aotearoa to turn into an unplanned trip to the doctor?

And for Kiwis returning from overseas, it can be a total downer to be struck down with an illness after coming home.

Diseases can be picked up overseas but symptoms may not appear until touching down in Aotearoa. Some tropical diseases and infections can become serious quite quickly and may be life threatening. And with a COVID-19 pandemic, it's particularly important to watch out for symptoms in the first few weeks after you arrive back in the country.

Here are some tips for what to do if you become sick within a month of arriving or returning home.

COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) health advice 

Firstly, find out what happens for people arriving into Aotearoa New Zealand from overseas. 

If at any point you develop any flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough or shortness of breath, phone your GP or Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number 0800 358 5453.

Find out information about the alert levels and what you need to do at each level at

Find out information about the COVID-19 Protection Framework that will take over from the alert level system from 11.59pm on 2 December 2021.

Find out about other coronavirus-related topics at COVID-19 outbreak 2020.

Seek medical advice as soon as possible

With the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, as soon as you become ill, call your GP clinic or free phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice. Do not turn up without phoning first.

Explain your travel history

Make sure you explain in detail where you have been overseas and what activities you’ve taken part in, eg, visiting a farm or snorkelling.

Describe all your symptoms

It’s important to describe in detail all of your symptoms. Tell the doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • any COVID-19 symptoms
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • ongoing coughing
  • ongoing diarrhoea
  • ongoing vomiting
  • skin rash
  • bruising or bleeding without injury
  • confusion
  • looking obviously unwell.

Reduce the risk of illness spreading

If someone you know becomes ill after arriving in the country, you can reduce the risk of catching the illness by avoiding contact with them where possible. If you are the person who becomes ill, you can minimise the risk of spreading it by:

  • keeping yourself away from others
  • covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • using disposable tissues to blow your nose
  • washing your hands frequently, including after the above
  • not sharing food, drinks or utensils (knives, forks, chopsticks, spoons, bowls, plates, straws, pens, pencils, toothbrushes etc).

The Ministry of Health has issued health advice cards for people who get sick within one month of arriving in New Zealand. They are available in 6 languages: English, Chinese, French, Korean, Samoan and Tongan.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.