The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020 in the wake of the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. There are 1602 cases (confirmed and probable) in Aotearoa New Zealand, with 49 active.

Aotearoa New Zealand now has a four-level alert system to guide the response to the pandemic. We are currently at alert level three in Auckland, and alert level two elsewhere in the country.

Visit the official New Zealand COVID-19 website

Visit the Ministry of Health website

The number of confirmed cases worldwide now exceeds 21 million, with 753,451 deaths reported and nearly 14 million patients officially recovered. Cases have emerged in 213 countries and territories.

The virus originated in Wuhan City, China and was identified after more than 40 people developed pneumonia in December 2019. The virus is a member of the coronavirus family. This is a diverse group of viruses that includes the common cold. Named SARS-CoV-2, it is related to SARS, which caused an outbreak in 2003, and MERS, which emerged in 2012.

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Last updated: 14 August 2020

Science in emergencies: COVID-19 documentary

By independent filmmaker Shirley Horrocks

Information summaries

Prepared under urgency

Please note that many of these documents reflect current information at a particular point in time, during a rapidly evolving situation.


COVID-19 vaccines – 7 September 2020

A summary of COVID-19 vaccine development efforts including the different approaches, potential challenges, and the current frontrunners.

Can SARS-CoV-2 survive in refrigerated environments – and for how long? – 20 August 2020

A short document on the highly uncertain evidence base for the possibility of SASR-CoV-2 transmission via the cold supply chain. This has been updated with new information on 20 August 2020.

Download ‘Can SARS-CoV-2 survive in refrigerated environments – and for how long?’ (PDF, 208KB)


Masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 – 13 August 2020

A short document on the evidence base for mask wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 plus explanation of the different types of masks.

Download ‘Masks prevent the spread of COVID-19’ (PDF, 202KB)


COVID-19 and vitamin D – 2 June 2020

Produced by Cherie Tollemache, one of our MacDiarmid interns, this report summarises the evidence for a link between vitamin D status and COVID-19 severity.

Download the ‘COVID-19 and vitamin D’ report (PDF, 867KB)


COVID-19 and seasonality – 18 May 2020

Produced by Stephen Lo, one of our MacDiarmid interns, this report examines the role of climate and weather in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Download the ‘COVID-19 and seasonality’ report (PDF, 375KB)


Is SARS-CoV-2 airborne? – 14 May 2020

This short summary describes research investigating whether an airborne transmission route is possible for SARS-CoV-2 and what role this might play in the progression of the pandemic.

Download the report ‘Is SARS-CoV-2 airborne?’ (PDF, 191KB)


Serology testing for COVID-19 antibodies – 29 April 2020

Focusing specifically on antibody testing, this review builds on the paper below led by Professor Michael Bunce, Chief Scientist at the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) – Te Mana Rauhī Taiao.

Download the report ‘Serology testing for the presence of antibodies against COVID-19’ (PDF, 496KB)


Testing for COVID-19 – 30 March 2020

A commissioned review on COVID-19 testing methods, produced under urgency by lead author Professor Michael Bunce, Chief Scientist at the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) – Te Mana Rauhī Taiao.

Download the report ‘Testing for COVID-19’ (PDF, 880KB)

Download the appendices for the report (PDF, 2.41MB)


Advisory information provided to the Prime Minister as part of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Download the June/July/August advice bundle (PDF, 4MB)

Download the May advice bundle (PDF, 693KB)

Download the April advice bundle (PDF, 6MB)

Read the March advice bundle (PDF, 611KB)


The five burning questions facing NZ

When will we have a vaccine? And are our borders sufficiently secure now? Science reporter Jamie Morton spoke to Juliet and other scientists to answer five burning coronavirus questions facing NZ.

A COVID tracer QR code print out in a cafe

When can we re-open our borders?

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages offshore, how does Aotearoa New Zealand decide to reopen our borders and what constitutes an acceptable level of risk?

Man wearing a mask walks across the street in inner city Auckland

Banner images: NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)