COVID-19 and cancer



People with neuroendocrine cancers (NETs)

New Zealand patients with neuroendocrine cancers (NETs) who have been unable to access regular treatment in Australia due to COVID-19, will now be treated in Auckland thanks to an interim arrangement. See more here. 

Alert level 2

Alert Level 2 is not life as normal. You can still go to work and school, but you should:

  • keep your distance from other people in public
  • wash your hands
  • sneeze and cough into your elbow
  • keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen
  • wear a mask if you can.

You may notice these changes to your treatment at Level 2:

  • physical distancing guidelines will be in place
  • outpatient appointments may be in person or virtual (eg, phone conversation or video call), you will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have treatment or a scan scheduled, please attend this as normal (unless you have been contacted by your cancer centre with alternative arrangements)
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know.

Protect yourself and others from COVID-19

For people with cancer at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home. It is still safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

Read more here.


Wearing a mask

The current advice is that wearing a mask, especially if your immune system is compromised, is advisable and where safe distancing is not possible.

World Health Organisation advice on what mask to wear and how to wear a mask here.


Download the COVID NZ tracer app

Please consider downloading the COVID NZ tracer app to help monitor peoples movements and prevent the spread of COVID.


Going to a hospital or health service

It is still safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

Read more about cancer treatment and services during alert level 2 here.

If you have questions or concerns, you can call 0800 226 237 CANCER helpline or Health line 0800 611 116 for advice.  

We know this is a difficult time. We continue to be here for you. Please contact your local Cancer Society (phone or email) or our 0800 phone line on 0800 226 237.

  • People with cancer, including those receiving chemotherapy, should continue their treatment. Talk to your treatment team about your specific risks at your next appointment.
  • Get an influenza vaccine if you can. These are free for over 65-year-olds and most people with cancer.
  • Some treatment recommendations may change but these will be discussed with you.
  • If you have a fever, cough or are short of breath, call your oncology treatment team for specific advice.

Go to Ministry of Health website for the latest information or call our 0800 226 237 Cancer Society information line.


COO0002 New FB Static 4

COVID-19 symptoms

COVID-19 infection is caused by a novel coronavirus. It is from a family of viruses that cause colds and cough illnesses.

  • Most people show infections around 5-7 days following exposure, but it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to show in some people.
  • Common symptoms are fever, cough, and fatigue. Some people also have a sore throat or are breathless. Very few people have runny noses or nasal congestion.

Refer to Ministry of Health information about the virus and its symptoms.


Who is at risk of getting COVID-19

Everyone is at risk of getting this infection. Because this is a new virus, no-one has immunity.

Overseas experience shows us that people with reduced immunity are at higher risk from this virus. This includes people with cancer and those who have recently received chemotherapy or other treatments that weaken the immune system. People in these groups might also be infectious with the virus for longer (‘prolonged virus shedding’).


COO0002 New FB Static 2

How to avoid catching COVID-19

COVID-19 infection is spread by contact with respiratory droplets spread in coughs and sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in or can land on surfaces. People who touch those surfaces (including other people’s hands) and then touch their mouth or nose can become infected.

There are things you can do to protect yourself from getting COVID-19:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or with hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds
  • avoid places where there are a lot of other people and keep more than 1.5 metres away from people with coughs or colds
  • clean and disinfect regularly-touched surfaces.
If people have coughs or colds, it is important that you not go to work, school or to social gatherings. You should wear a mask when in public or cover your coughs/sneezes. See Ministry of Health advice.

Is there a vaccine or any medicines, to prevent COVID-19?

We are aware the Ministry is developing guidance on the vaccine rollout, including priority groups and what people need to know about any potential side effects. We look forward to seeing this soon. It is important that cancer patients, as a highly immunocompromised group, receive the vaccine quickly and safely. We have spoken with Te Aho o Te Kahu (Cancer Control Agency) on the issue, and we will be doing our bit to get the information out when it is available.

It is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against influenza this year. Dual infections with different viruses are possible and are more likely to cause more serious illness. Please also get a pneumococcal booster if you are due for one – ask your doctor or nurse specialist if these are suitable for you.


If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you have been exposed

If you have not had chemotherapy or immunotherapy treatment or your immune system is not compromised follow these instructions:

  • If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you have recently travelled to a country with community-spread of the virus, phone the Healthline team on: 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 if internationally).
  • Do not go into the hospital, cancer treatment centre, or to your GP without calling ahead.


If you are receiving treatment for cancer (or have recently received treatment)

Your treatment team will give you information about the virus, what to do if you feel unwell, and the steps to take if you do get sick.

  • keep attending cancer treatment appointments
  • call ahead if you have symptoms
  • if you get a fever (temperature of 38°C or above) while on chemotherapy, you should follow the instructions your treatment team has given you for this situation.


Travelling overseas

The SafeTravel website provides travel information for COVID-19. It is advised that all non-essential travel be avoided, especially to any region where there is a high number of cases of COVID-19 in these communities. Be aware that travel insurance does not generally cover COVID-19 or other outbreaks. If you are still considering travel, then seeking advice from a specialist is recommended. There may be a mandatory quarantine period on your return so it is important to have prepared for this.


How can I manage a funeral during lockdown?

In this unprecedented national situation, not being able to have a funeral, tangi or farewell gathering for a loved one or friend is extremely distressing and painful. 

It seems all wrong. However, until such time as restrictions are lifted and gatherings are possible again it's unfortunately part of the new normal in New Zealand. This lockdown time will eventually pass. But in the meantime, your Funeral Director can let you know about the options available for the care of your loved one right now. They can also discuss with you options for gatherings to honour the person’s life at a later date. This information here may be helpful for you to read.


Shopping online

Countdown has put vulnerable customers first for their online shopping service. This means people going through cancer treatment.

To take advantage of this:


More information

 Updated 21 September 2020