Hospital visiting guidelines updated 20 July 2022: Hospital visitors must wear a surgical/medical paper mask. Fabric face coverings are no longer acceptable. See our COVID-19 pages for detailed information about hospital visiting guidelines, COVID-19 tests and care in the community advice. See for information about vaccinations.

We are at ORANGE according to the NZ COVID-19 Protection Framework

Last updated:
20 July 2022

Mask exemptions accepted for people seeking treatment
Any member of the public with a mask exemption is welcome in all our facilities when attending to receive health care and *treatment. Please show your mask exemption card and appointment letter to staff at the entrance.

*Treatment includes: coming into the Emergency Department, outpatient appointments,  surgery or a procedure.

For visitors to all facilities effective from Wednesday 20 July 2022

With the recent resurgence in cases in Canterbury, largely due to the Omicron BA.5 subvariant we are seeing an increase in demand right across the health system. Presentations to our Christchurch ED and Ashburton’s AAU are higher than ever and admission rates are high, which means we have a shortage of resourced beds.

Recently, we have seen too many unwell people coming to visit someone in hospital and too many that cannot or will not wear a medical mask. This increases the risk to vulnerable people in hospital. For these reasons we need to everything we can to minimise these risks.

We have therefore tightened visitor restrictions for all Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury hospitals and health facilities.

Kia whakahaumaru te whānau, me ngā iwi katoa – this is to keep everybody safe:

  • One visitor per patient in the hospital at any given time, except where stated otherwise in the ‘exceptions’ section below.
  • No visitors under 16 to any part of our facilities.
  • No visitors to COVID +ve patients other than in exceptional circumstances.
  • No eating or drinking at the bedside or anywhere other than cafes or areas designated for eating/drinking, as taking your mask off puts patients at risk.
  • Visitors or support people must not visit our facilities if they are unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms (even if they have tested negative) or have had a recent tummy bug.
  • Do not visit if you are COVID +ve or a household contact of someone who has tested positive
  • Surgical/medical masks must be worn at all times at all sites and will be provided if people don’t have them. Mask exemptions do not apply in our facilities – people who cannot tolerate a mask cannot visit at this time.
  • Hand sanitiser stations are visible and must be used.

By sticking to the rules above, you help keep our patients, staff, other visitors and yourself safe. We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as our staff work hard to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Exceptions to the ‘one visitor’ policy

  • Exceptions can apply in some circumstances where trusted whānau members provide assistance, reassurance and other support for therapeutic care or on compassionate grounds – please talk to the ward’s Charge Nurse to discuss this before you come to hospital to visit. For whānau with an essential support role as a Partner in Care – again, please check with the ward’s Charge Nurse before you come to hospital to visit.
  • People attending Christchurch ED or Ashburton AAU can have one support person with them.
  • Women in labour and in the birthing suite can have two named support people + their community LMC/midwife if they have one – for the duration of the birth only. All other women on the Maternity Ward are allowed one support person for the duration of their stay in our facilities at Christchurch Women’s Hospital and other maternity units. Only one support person can be with each woman in the maternity ward, and one support person for maternity clinic appointments. No under 16s are allowed to visit or attend appointments.
  • Parents/caregivers can be with their baby in NICU.
  • Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital (Except Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day patients where only one parent or caregiver is permitted).
  • People requiring support when attending an appointment can have one support person. Please let the relevant service know if you need this so they are able to accommodate your request.

Visiting patients with COVID-19

  • To avoid them becoming infected with COVID-19 and passing it one, visitors to COVID-19 positive patients will not be allowed except in extenuating circumstances – by prior agreement with the Charge Nurse Manager only, and wearing an N95 mask.
  • Other methods of communication will be facilitated e.g. phone, facetime, zoom etc.

You must NOT visit the hospital if you

  • are a household contact of a COVID-19 positive case
  • are COVID-19 positive
  • Have a cold or flu/COVID-19-like symptoms (even if you are testing negative for COVID-19)

Exceptions for people with disabilities

An exception will be made for people with disabilities who are in hospital or have to attend an outpatient appointment – where they need a support person to access health services. For example, a sign language interpreter, support person for someone with a learning disability, or someone to assist with mobility. The support person is in addition to the one permitted visitor.

Everyone visiting our facilities must wear a mask, no exceptions

While we appreciate that some people have legitimate reasons for being exempt from wearing a mask and may even have an official card to confirm this, people who cannot or will not wear a mask cannot visit someone in hospital or attend hospital, other than to access healthcare treatment*. This is another measure to minimise the risk to vulnerable patients.

*healthcare treatment includes: Emergency Department care, outpatient appointments, surgery or a procedure. 

Patients and visitors should also read the additional more detailed visiting guidelines for each specific hospital.

More COVID-19 information

Saliva drug testing by Canterbury Health Laboratories a New Zealand first

Wednesday 3 March 2021Media release3 minutes to read

THIS IS AN ARCHIVED PAGE. The advice and information contained in this page may not be current and it should only be used for historical reference purposes.

Senior Scientists in the Toxicology and Workplace Drug Testing department at Canterbury Health Laboratories, Mark Lewis and Sharon Paterson, demonstrate taking a saliva sample for saliva drug testing

An easier and more efficient drug testing alternative to urine samples is now available for the first time in New Zealand through Canterbury Health Laboratories.

A saliva drug test, also known as an oral fluid or a mouth swab drug test, can replace traditional urine tests to detect recent drug use. Many workplaces use urine tests to detect drug use as part of their health and safety efforts. Typically, these are done at specific testing locations to make sure the sample is correctly gathered and not tampered with.

Canterbury Health Laboratories Head of Toxicology Grant Moore says the saliva test offers significant benefits for employers and is more convenient for those being tested.

“Employers can have their own swab kits and do it themselves on site rather than using an external testing agency. They can also directly observe the test.

“For those being tested it means they aren’t having to travel for their test and it is less invasive to collect a mouth swab than a urine sample,” says Grant.

Use of amphetamine-type substances, opiates, cannabis and cocaine within a preceding 24 hour period can be detected by the saliva test, depending on the substance.

“The advantage of testing saliva is that urine testing picks up drugs that have passed through the body whereas saliva registers drugs that may have just been taken but have not yet been fully processed internally.

“This means that, depending on an organisation’s employment policies, it could be used straight away if impairment was suspected or a workplace accident has occurred, and the test is sent away for testing with results within four to five days,” Grant says.

A swab collection kit for taking saliva samples for saliva drug testing

A swab collection kit for taking saliva samples for saliva drug testing

The screening test will indicate if a substance is detected. However, just as with urine testing, if a screening test result doesn’t come back as negative, it needs to be confirmed by an accredited laboratory.

Saliva drug tests are more common overseas, but Canterbury Health Laboratories is the first laboratory in New Zealand offering confirmatory testing for saliva/oral fluid tests. They also supply the swab collection kits for taking the samples.

“People want their loved ones coming home safely from work.

“By making drug screening easier and more convenient we hope we can help make workplaces safer for more Kiwis,” says Grant.

For further information on the saliva drug test kits and confirmatory testing by Canterbury Health Laboratories, contact



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Page last updated: 19 August 2021

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