Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath. The virus can spread from person to person, but good hygiene can prevent infection. Find out who is at risk and what you should do if you think you have COVID-19.
What is COVID-19
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new coronavirus. It was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.
Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly.
People with COVID-19 may experience:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- flu-like symptoms
If you think you have COVID-19
If you are sick and think you have symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention. If you want to talk to someone about your symptoms first, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice.
Coronavirus Health Information Line
Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week – 1800 020 080
If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.
How to seek medical attention
If you are feeling unwell and have the above symptoms, seek medical help from a doctor or hospital, call ahead of time to book an appointment.
You will be asked to take precautions when you attend for treatment. Follow the instructions you are given.
If you have a mask, wear it to protect others. Stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Cover your coughs or sneezes with your elbow.
Tell the doctor about:
- your symptoms
- any travel history
- any recent contact with someone who has COVID-19
Your doctor will tell you if you should be tested. They will arrange for the test.
You will only be tested if your doctor decides you meet the criteria:
- You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause
- You are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever
There is a global shortage of the test kits that pathologists use to diagnose COVID-19. This is why the Government are only doing targeted testing instead of widespread testing.
It may take a few days for the test results to come back.
If you have serious symptoms you will be kept in hospital and isolated from other patients to prevent the virus spreading.
If your doctor says you are well enough to go home while you wait for your test results, you should:
- self-quarantine at home and do not attend work or school
- wash your hands often with soap and water
- cough and sneeze into your elbow
- avoid cooking for or caring for other members of your household
- wear the mask your doctor gives you if you cannot avoid close contact with other people
For questions about testing or patient welfare, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line above.
If you need to self-isolate
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people.
You might also be asked to stay at home if you may have been exposed to the virus.
Staying at home means you:
- do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, or university
- ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
- do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
You do not need to wear a mask in your home. If you need to go out to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others.
You should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends.
To find out more, read the Department of Health’s home isolation information sheet.
How it spreads
The virus can spread from person to person through:
- close contact with an infectious person (including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms)
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face
COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community. This means that COVID-19 could spread widely and quickly.
Protect yourself and others
To prevent the spread of viruses, practise good hygiene and social distancing.
Everyone must practice good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spreading.
Good hygiene includes:
- covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- disposing of tissues properly
- washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
- using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- if you are sick, avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 metres away from people
Read more about protective measures against coronavirus on the World Health Organization website.
If you have a confirmed case, you need to self-quarantine to prevent it spreading to other people.
One way to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. For example:
- staying at home when you are unwell
- avoiding large public gatherings if they’re not essential
- keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible
- minimising physical contact, especially with people at higher risk such as older people and people with existing health conditions
Find out more about social distancing and avoiding public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups.
Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others.
If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask. There is little evidence that widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people prevents transmission in public.
Find out more in our fact sheet about the use of surgical masks.
There is no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is one for the flu.
You should get your flu shot when it’s available. Getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can make you very ill.
Translated coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
A list of resources about COVID-19 in English, Chinese, Farsi, Italian and Korean can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website. The resources on these pages include fact sheets, guidelines and other publications.
Remember to check the Smartraveller website regularly and subscribe for updates.