COVID-19 Protect Yourself

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is the same way you would protect yourself from catching flu or other respiratory illness:

  • clean your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
  • cover your sneeze or cough with your elbow or with tissue.
  • avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • stay home if you are sick.

Protect yourself

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is the same way you would protect yourself from catching flu or other respiratory illness:

  • clean your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
  • cover your sneeze or cough with your elbow or with tissue.
  • avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • stay home if you are sick.

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About COVID-19

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What are coronaviruses?

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Should I avoid attending public events, for example, religious celebrations, music festivals or sporting matches?

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On 15 March 2020, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard made an Order under Section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 to force the immediate cancellation of major events with more than 500 people. This includes events such as concerts, sporting fixtures with large crowds, exhibitions and religious celebrations.

Individuals who fail to comply could face up to six months in prison or a fine of up to $11,000 or both, plus additional penalties for each day the offence continues. Corporations face even harsher fines.

Critical workforce, such as healthcare professionals and emergency services workers, are also recommended to limit their attendance at non-essential meetings or conferences.

The advice on mass gatherings does not apply to attendance at schools, universities or child care centres. While all Australians are encouraged to exercise personal responsibility for social distancing, there are no current restrictions recommended on attending other settings, such as shopping centres, or using public transport.

For non-essential organised gatherings with fewer than 500 attendees, NSW Health recommends that organisers:

  • remind attendees and staff not to attend if they are feeling unwell
  • remind attendees and staff they must not attend if they have travelled overseas in the past 14 days
  • ensure emergency management plans are up to date
  • brief staff on how to practice good hygiene and making it easy for staff and attendees to practice good hygiene
  • have adequate hand washing facilities available

NSW Health also encourages people considering attending these gatherings to:

  • stay home and not attend if you are feeling unwell
  • stay home and not attend if you have travelled overseas in the past 14 days
  • practice good personal hygiene including:
    • cleaning your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
    • covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow.

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How long does the COVID-19 infection last?

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The infection period for the virus will vary from person to person. Mild symptoms in an otherwise healthy individual may resolve over just a few days. Similar to influenza, for an individual with other ongoing health issues, such as a respiratory condition, recovery may take weeks and in severe cases could be potentially fatal.

What if I don’t have Medicare?

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Most people that are not eligible for Medicare will have health or travel insurance. For those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.

These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas with respiratory symptoms seeking early medical advice.

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How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

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Infection with COVID-19 is diagnosed by finding evidence of the virus in respiratory samples such as swabs from the back of the nose and throat or fluid from the lungs. Samples for testing can be taken directly by GPs or at a range of private pathology sites across the state that are suitable for collection of COVID-19, or at public hospitals across NSW.

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What should I do if I come into contact with a person with COVID-19?

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If you have been identified as a contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection in Australia, the local public health unit will contact you with advice. You need to isolate yourself at home for 14 days after contact with the infected person, and to monitor your health and report any symptoms.

Person to person spread of coronaviruses generally occurs between people who are close contacts with one another. A close contact is typically someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with a person that was infectious. The public health unit will keep in touch with people who are close contacts of patients with COVID-19 infection. If any symptoms develop contacts must call the public health unit to report those symptoms.

If your contact with the person was less than this, there is a much smaller risk of you being infected. However, as a precaution you must still monitor your health until 14 days after you were last exposed to the infectious person. If you develop symptoms including a fever and/or respiratory signs, please call ahead to talk to a doctor or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. Tell your doctor that you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. The doctor may tell you to attend your nearest emergency department – if so when you arrive, immediately tell staff you have had contact with someone with COVID-19.

More information about home isolation is available for:

Practice simple hygiene by:

  • making sure to clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow.

What should I do if I come into contact with a person who has been identified as a contact?

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If you have been in contact with a person identified as a close contact of another person with confirmed COVID-19 infection, you do not need to self-isolate (although the close contact does) and don’t need take any other special precautions.

If a close contact develops symptoms and is confirmed as a COVID-19 case, public health authorities will determine who, if anyone, has been in close contact with them while they were infectious, and these people will be directed to self-isolate.

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Who is at risk?

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People who have:

  • been in contact with a person with COVID-19
  • been overseas in the previous 14 days

As there is increasing community transmission in a number of countries around the world, anyone who has travelled overseas in the past 14 days is at increased risk.

People with underlying illnesses that make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease, including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney failure, people with suppressed immune systems and older people are at a higher risk of serious disease.

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How is it prevented?

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  • Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Practice cough etiquette (keep away from other people, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and clean your hands.
  • Travellers to Asia should not visit live bird and animal markets, including ‘wet’ markets.

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Is there a cure or vaccine?

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There are no vaccines that protect against COVID-19.

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Early diagnosis and general supportive care are important. Most of the time, symptoms will resolve on their own. People who have serious disease with complications can be cared for in hospital.

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Has my doctor been informed?

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Health workers in NSW public hospital emergency departments as well as community-based general practitioners are aware of the symptoms and actions to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through careful infection control measures.

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What if I am unable to speak to my doctor?

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If you are after medical advice and your general practitioner is not able to speak with you, you can call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. They will be able to discuss your symptoms and travel history with you, to help decide if COVID-19 testing is recommended.

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How do I get tested for COVID-19?

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NSW Health is recommending people with acute, cold, flu-like symptoms who are returned travellers, or a contact of a confirmed case, be tested for COVID-19.

Samples for testing can be taken directly by GPs or at a range of private pathology sites across the state that are suitable for collection of COVID-19, or at public hospitals across NSW.

COVID-19/Flu clinics are being established within all Local Health Districts across NSW to assess and diagnose patients with possible COVID-19 infections and other respiratory illness such as influenza as we approach the winter season.

NSW Health is also expanding the laboratory capacity across public hospitals and private laboratories to scale up the analytical testing to determine the results of those tests.

Currently, NSW Health laboratories have capacity to perform more than 1,000 tests a day at three public hospitals at Randwick, Westmead, and Liverpool, and they will soon be joined by four more hospitals: Royal North Shore, Royal Prince Alfred, John Hunter, and Nepean.

NSW Health has already engaged private pathology laboratories to assist in the collection of samples from people who require COVID-19 testing.

Testing is recommended for all returning overseas travellers who develop symptoms within 14 days of return, contacts of cases who develop symptoms, people admitted to hospital with severe respiratory infection irrespective of travel history, other special circumstances such as where there is an outbreak of respiratory infections without an identified cause such as flu.

This testing can take up to two days to complete and report back.

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How are other coronaviruses tested?

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COVID-19 is one kind of coronavirus, but there are other kinds of coronaviruses that have infected people for many years around the world, including in Australia. If you are sick with a respiratory infection (for example you have a cough, runny nose, sore throat or fever), the doctor may order a swab from the back of your nose or throat for testing. Many laboratories will test the swab for several different viruses. This test is called a multiplex viral respiratory panel, which often include tests for these other coronaviruses. These tests currently do not test for COVID-19 and do not indicate whether it is present or absent.

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Are people in NSW at risk?

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COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, where it has caused a large and ongoing outbreak. It has since spread more widely in many other countries.

NSW Health has developed and exercised a range of procedures for case finding, diagnosis, and contact tracing for high consequence infectious diseases (such as pandemic influenza, SARS, MERS, and emerging infections) should they occur in NSW. These procedures are being used to identify contacts of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NSW.

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Protecting against COVID-19

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How can I protect myself / my family?

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The best way to protect yourself is the same as you would against any respiratory infection. Practice good hygiene by:

  • making sure to clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
  • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Make sure you stay home if you are sick.

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Do face masks protect against COVID-19? Which face masks?

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Face masks are not recommended for the general population.

People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical face mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else.

Health care workers who are caring for patients with suspected COVID-19 should use appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves against COVID-19. For more information refer to Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) – Coronavirus COVID-19.

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How do we know the people who have had COVID-19 are no longer infectious?

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People with confirmed COVID-19 infection stay in isolation under the care of medical specialists until they are no longer experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Before they are released from isolation, they have tests to see if they still have COVID-19 and the specialist care team assesses they are no longer infectious. Once they are discharged they have a follow up assessment by the medical team to make sure they remain well.

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Do I need a medical certificate clearing me for work, school, university or other settings?

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No. If you do not have any symptoms there is no testing that can be done to predict whether or not you will become unwell. It is not possible to issue a ‘medical clearance certificate’.

Once 14 days have passed since you returned from overseas, you have passed the time in which you would become sick if you were exposed to COVID-19. If you are still completely well 14 days after you arrived then you will not get COVID-19 from your time overseas, and you can cease self-isolation and return to work, school and university.

Home isolation

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Do I need to be separate from other people in my home if I am isolating?

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Yes. If you are sharing your home with others, you should stay in a different room from other people or be separated as much as possible. Wear a surgical mask when you are in the same room as another person, and when seeking medical care. Use a separate bathroom, if available.

Make sure that you do not share a room with people who are at risk of severe disease, such as elderly people and those who have heart, lung or kidney conditions, and diabetes.

Visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home should not visit while you are isolating.

More information about home isolation is available for:

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Someone in my household recently returned from overseas or has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and is self-isolating. Do I need to self-isolate too?

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Other members of the household are not required to be isolated unless they have also:

  • been overseas in the last 14 days
  • been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Make sure you maintain a safe distance from that person at all times but support them as much as possible to maintain their self-isolation.

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How can I access groceries and medicines while in home isolation?

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If you need groceries or medicines (including prescription medicines), ask a family member or friend (who is not in isolation) to deliver them to your home or shop for groceries online. To prevent infecting other people, make sure you wear a mask when receiving a delivery or have the groceries left at your door.

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When someone has finished 14 days isolation, do they need to see their GP?

If you are well at the end of 14 days self-isolation, you can resume your normal lifestyle.

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Are you worried that you or someone you know may have or has COVID-19; or are anxious about being in isolation and would you like to speak to someone about it?

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Contact one of the services below for support or talk to your general practitioner.

  • Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 or Lifeline Australia
    A crisis support service that provides short term support at any time for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551800 or Kids Helpline
    A free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years.
  • NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
    Mental health crisis telephone service in NSW.

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Where can I find more information?

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