NSW Government - Coronavirus

Visit NSW Government - Coronavirus (COVID-19) for the latest advice and information for community and businesses, including information about COVID-19 symptoms, testing and social distancing.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

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What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is an epidemic (infectious disease outbreak) that spreads on a global scale. Pandemics usually occur when a new infectious disease emerges that can spread rapidly around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020. This COVID-19 pandemic is the first caused by a coronavirus. (WHO)

What causes pandemics?

A pandemic can occur when a new virus emerges and there is worldwide spread of the disease. Most people do not have immunity to a new virus. Viruses that have caused past pandemics usually come from animal viruses that have mutated to affect humans.

For a new virus to have pandemic potential it must meet three criteria:

  • humans have little or no pre-existing immunity against the virus
  • the virus causes disease in humans
  • the virus can spread efficiently from person to person.

Previous pandemics include Spanish Influenza in 1918 or H1N1 Swine Flu in 2009. Only Type A influenza viruses have been known to cause influenza pandemics. This COVID-19 pandemic is the first caused by a coronavirus.

What does it mean that the WHO has declared a pandemic?

On 11 March WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The WHO used this declaration to call for urgent and aggressive action. They noted that this is a pandemic that can be controlled. Both China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining outbreaks.

On 30 January, the WHO declared that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. In the last two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 has increased substantially and the number of affected countries has tripled (WHO).

Why do pandemics occur? How serious will the impact be?

The health impact of a pandemic on the community depends on how easily the virus can be spread between people (i.e. transmissibility) and the seriousness of the illness it causes (i.e. clinical severity). Healthcare systems can limit the impact on a community by slowing the spread of the infection between people and increasing the ability of the healthcare system to look after people who do get sick. NSW Health is putting a lot of effort into doing both of these things.

About COVID-19

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause illness in humans and others cause illness in animals, such as bats, camels, and civets. Human coronaviruses generally cause mild illness, such as the common cold.

Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve to infect and spread among humans, causing severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which emerged in 2002, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which emerged in 2012.

What is the COVID-19 virus?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, where it has caused a large and ongoing outbreak. It has since spread more widely in China. Cases have since been identified in several other countries. The COVID-19 virus is closely related to a bat coronavirus.

There is much more to learn about how COVID-19 is spread, its severity, and other features associated with the virus; epidemiological and clinical investigations are ongoing.

Outbreaks of new coronavirus infections among people are always a public health concern. The situation is evolving rapidly.

How is the virus spread?

Human coronaviruses are spread from someone infected with COVID-19 virus to other close contacts with that person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically 5 to 6 days, although may range from 2 to 14 days. For this reason, people who might have been in contact with a confirmed case are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Most COVID-19 cases appear to be spread from people who have symptoms. A small number of people may have been infectious before their symptoms developed.

How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?

According to the World Health Organization, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

What are the symptoms?

Patients may have fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms.

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu?

The first symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza (flu) infections are often very similar. They both cause fever and similar respiratory symptoms, which can then range from mild through to severe disease, and sometimes can be fatal.

Both viruses are also transmitted in the same way, by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with hands, surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus. As a result, the same public health measures, such as hand hygiene (hand washing), good respiratory etiquette (coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue) and good household cleaning are important actions to prevent both infections.

The speed of transmission is an important difference between the two viruses. Influenza typically has a shorter incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) than COVID-19. This means that influenza can spread faster than COVID-19.

While the range of symptoms for the two viruses is similar, the fraction with severe disease appears to be higher for COVID-19. While most people have mild symptoms, approximately 15% of people have severe infections and 5% require intensive care in a hospital ICU. The proportions of severe and critical COVID-19 infections are higher than for influenza infections.

Will the flu vaccine protect against COVID-19?

No, but it is more important than ever to get a flu vaccine this year. Flu vaccination reduces your chances of getting influenza, which means it also reduces the risk of you having two potentially serious infections, influenza and COVID-19, at the same time.

People are encouraged to discuss with their GP or other immunisation providers how to organise to get their influenza vaccination with the social distancing requirements and other measures in place to minimise potential exposure to coronavirus. People not eligible for free flu vaccine can consider also get vaccinated through many pharmacies. Children under 5 years can also access the free influenza vaccine through community health centres and local councils that immunise children.

See the Seasonal influenza immunisation FAQs for more information.

I have travelled to another country. What should I do?

If you have been overseas in the last 14 days, you should:

  • self isolate yourself from others for 14 days from the day you returned or arrived from overseas
  • monitor yourself for symptoms.

From 11.59pm on Saturday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia from overseas will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel).  Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks at the airport.

If you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms within the 14 day period, please:

  • call your doctor or healthdirect on 1800 022 222. When you call, tell them where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.
    or (if your symptoms are severe)
  • visit your local Emergency Department. When you arrive, immediately tell staff where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.

If you need to seek medical care wear a surgical mask if available when attending. If you have symptoms it is important that you do not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services.

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


The NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research has issued public health orders to protect the community and limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

For more information, refer to NSW Government - Public health orders.

How long does the COVID-19 infection last?

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?

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.

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

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.

Refer to COVID-19 clinics for locations of NSW Health COVID-19/flu assessment clinics.

What does a negative COVID-19 test result mean?

The nose/throat swab for COVID-19 looks for the virus present in your nose and throat.

If you are in home isolation because you have returned from overseas or have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, a negative test result does not mean you can end your home isolation. You need to remain in home isolation for a total of 14 days after you returned to Australia or had close contact with a COVID-19 case.

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

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?

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.

Who is most at risk?

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting COVID-19 coronavirus infections are those who have:

  • recently returned from overseas
  • been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

There is also evidence of limited spread of COVID-19 in the community in Australia.

Based on what we know so far about COVID-19 and what we know about other coronaviruses, those at greatest risk of serious infection are:

  • people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer)
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions
  • elderly people
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness

It is important to remember that even healthy young adults can have severe disease caused by COVID-19.

People living in group residential settings are at greater risk of being exposed to outbreaks of COVID-19 if a case is diagnosed in a resident or staff member. This includes:

  • people living in residential aged care facilities and disability group homes
  • people in detention facilities
  • students in boarding schools
  • people on Cruise Ships.

People living in some group residential settings are also more likely to have conditions that make them at greater risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

What is the risk to children?

Newborn babies and infants do not appear to be at increased risk of complications from the infection.

Most children and adolescents with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms and recover within one to two weeks


Please see guidance for maternity and neonates, parents of infants and schools, universities and childcare​ for further information. 

I'm pregnant, should I be worried?

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) is the peak body for obstetrics and gynaecology and women’s health in Australia and New Zealand. RANZCOG has updated its advice and information for pregnant women and their families about COVID-19.

Read the latest from Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) or listen to RANZCOG President Dr Vijay Roach.

How is it prevented?

Some simple measures significantly reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and of spreading it:

  • Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitiser.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing or use your elbow, not your hands
  • Avoid close contact with people unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms, and stay home if you have these symptoms.
  • Avoid touching your face and avoid shaking hands with others.
  • Try to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others as much as possible, and avoid crowded places.

Is there a cure or vaccine?

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.

What if I am unable to speak to my doctor?

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.

How do I get tested for COVID-19?

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.

Are people in NSW at risk?

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.

What arrangements are in place for checking people at airports?

The Australian Government has put in place protective measures at all international ports. For the most recent advice from the Australian Government, please visit Department of Health -Coronavirus (COVID-19).

What arrangements are in place for checking people who arrive at sea ports?

For each cruise ship arriving into NSW from overseas, a NSW Health expert panel conducts a risk assessment based on the ports visited, whether passengers and crew have a risk of exposure to COVID-19, whether the ship’s doctor has identified a respiratory outbreak on board, and the results of test results done on board the ship.

Following this risk assessment, further assessment may be done when the ship docks, including checking people with fever and respiratory symptoms or who have risk of exposure to COVID-19, and testing them for respiratory infections, including COVID-19. As there is an incubation period (before symptoms develop and tests are positive) for all infections including COVID-19, screening people for disease is not a failsafe, and is only one piece of the assessment.

Cruise ships have large number of passengers (often thousands), many of whom are older and have chronic medical conditions. Respiratory infections (unrelated to COVID-19) among passengers and crew are common on cruise ships. Cruise ships are responsible for, and have policies to prevent and manage outbreaks of disease on board.

What is the public health response to COVID-19?

Infection with COVID-19 is a notifiable condition under the NSW Public Health Act 2010, so doctors and pathology laboratories are required to notify NSW Health of all people suspected or confirmed to have the infection.

Public health unit staff will investigate all cases to find out how the infection occurred, identify other people at risk of infection, implement control measures and provide other advice.

Protecting against COVID-19

How can I protect myself / my family?

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.

The Raising Children Network has information and an advice line about coronavirus and children including links to resources for parents on talking to children about disaster and distressing events which may assist parents of anxious children. https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/coronavirus-covid-19-guide/coronavirus-and-children-in-australia

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has information on steps to protect the health of your family https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/protect-family.html


Up to date information is available on NSW Health Facebook and Twitter

What can I wash my hands with if I don’t have handwash?

The key to handwashing is to wash often and wash well for at least 20 seconds. That's about the time it takes to sing two verses of "Happy Birthday", which is a handy tip for children too.

All you need is water and a detergent (surfactant) such as:

  • a bar of soap
  • body wash
  • shampoo

It doesn't have to be an expensive brand, and it doesn't have to be marked "antibacterial".

If you're using hand sanitiser, it should contain 60% alcohol or more. Keep your nails short and clean, wash your tea towels often and consider avoiding wearing rings.


How can I protect my baby?​


The NSW Government website has information on how to protect yourself and others​

Everyone in the family should have the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccination when it becomes available. Babies can have the seasonal influenza vaccine from 6 months of age - the vaccine is free for all children aged 6 months to less than 5 years of age. For more information, including a list of all groups eligible for free seasonal influenza vaccine, go to the NSW Health webpage Seasonal influenza vaccination 2020​.

Make sure your baby’s vaccinations are up to date. This will protect them from other diseases that could make them sick.

If I have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 can I continue to breastfeed my baby?

Yes, you should continue to breastfeed or feed your baby expressed breastmilk.

The benefits of feeding your baby breastmilk outweighs any potential risk of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk. You should however take all necessary precautions to avoid spreading the virus. This includes wearing a face mask when near your baby (including while feeding), washing your hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding), and avoid coughing or sneezing on the baby while feeding. You should clean/disinfect contaminated surfaces.

Strict hygiene is required if handling expressing equipment and expressed breastmilk. If expressing breast milk by hand or with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching her breast, the pump or bottle parts.

Make sure you follow recommendations from the manufacturer for pump cleaning after each use. The Raising Children Network provides guidance on how to keep your expressing equipment clean at https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/breastfeeding-bottle-feeding/expressing-working-travelling/expressing-breastmilk​

If you are too ill to breastfeed, try to express milk and give it to your baby by a bottle, cup or spoon – following the same infection prevention methods.

If possible, consider someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to your baby following appropriate infection prevention methods.

You should discuss feeding options with your health professional.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has advice about COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

The ABA runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268). The Breastfeeding Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative UK site has information about infant feeding during the COVID-19 outbreak.

What precautions d​o I need to take if I am feeding my baby infant formula?

Follow the advice provided by the Raising Children Network on Bottle feeding: cleaning and sterilising equipment.


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

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.

Are there enough face masks in NSW?

Additional supplies of face masks have been distributed for specific health workers by NSW Health and the Australian Government to meet current demand. NSW Health will continue to monitor supplies of face masks in NSW.

Do hand dryers prevent COVID-19?

Hand dryers are not effective in killing or preventing COVID-19 on their own, and they may increase the risk of spread of COVID-19 if used on hands that have not been cleaned properly.

To protect yourself against COVID-19, you should clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitiser. If you have washed your hands, dry them thoroughly by using paper towels. If there are no paper towels available, use a hot air dryer or let your hands air dry. Your hands must be dried completely.

If you are using hand towels to dry your hands, such as in the bathroom at home, it’s important to wash them regularly. If someone in your home is unwell, they should use their own hand towel.

Is it safe to use public drinking fountains or water bubblers?

Public drinking water supplies are safe to drink, however the surfaces around the fountain including the spout and button/lever could pose a transmission risk for COVID-19 and other germs. At this stage, it is not certain how long viruses that cause COVID-19 survives on surfaces.

NSW Health recommends that you not place your mouth on the spout of a water fountain. Test the water flow and let the water run for a few seconds before drinking the water without putting your mouth or lips on the spout.

If the fountain requires you to push a button or lever, clean the surface first or use your elbow. Clean your hands afterwards with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. NSW Health recommends that organisations carry out more frequent cleaning of water bubblers and fountains.

How is hospital equipment and furniture being cleaned to protect against COVID-19?

Hospitals ensure surfaces are cleaned and disinfected after each suspected case, as are ambulances. There is an Infection Prevention and Control Practice Handbook that outlines the appropriate steps for cleaning a room to ensure there are no viruses remaining. Staff also wear protective gear when cleaning to protect themselves and limit any spread of infection.

Is it safe for me to go to a hospital where a COVID-19 case is?

NSW Health works with its hospitals to maintain high infection control standards. NSW hospitals and clinicians are well trained in caring for people with infectious diseases, and in preventing their transmission to other patients.

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

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.

Are there limits on purchasing some medicines?

Australian supplies of medicines are strong, however recent increases in demand have meant some community pharmacies have experienced a temporary strain on supply.

New limits have been set on dispensing and purchase of some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, so that everyone can access what they need, when they need it.  

Pharmacists will be required to limit dispensing of certain prescription products to one month's supply at the prescribed dose, and sales of certain over-the-counter medicines will be limited to a maximum of one unit per purchase.

  • Salbutamol inhalers (also known as Ventolin, Asmol and Airomir) provided on an over-the-counter basis will be subject to new enhanced controls, and pharmacists now have to confirm the patient's diagnosis.
  • Some medicines, including children's paracetamol products, will now be located behind the pharmacy counter.
  • Only one salbutamol (Ventolin, Asmol and Airomir puffers) or children's paracetamol paediatric product will be supplied per customer.

Can I swim in ocean pools and baths?

Ocean pools and baths are filled with untreated sea water, which is changed periodically.

The risk of contracting COVID-19 through swimming in ocean pools/baths is considered low. The COVID-19 virus is unlikely to survive for long periods in salt water.

People using ocean baths should:

  • stay at home if sick
  • stay at home if you have been asked by health authorities to self-isolate
  • do not swim if you have had diarrhoea
  • shower with soap before swimming
  • minimise time spent out of the pool
  • comply with social distancing (try to keep 1.5 metres from other people as much as possible)
  • comply with protective measures when in the change rooms and outside the pool (clean your hands, cover coughs and sneezes)
  • follow the usual health advice to avoiding swimming for least 1 day after rain
  • try to attend when the pool is less busy

Operators should clean facilities and surrounds regularly.

Work, university, school and travel arrangements

I have a holiday / work trip. Should I cancel my trip?

The Australian Government has announced a ban on all overseas travel. For more information, check the advice on Smart Traveller.

Can my child attend school?

From Tuesday 24 March, parents are encouraged to keep their children at home, but NSW schools will remain open. No child will be turned away from school.

Any student or staff member who over the last 14 days has been overseas should be in self-isolation for 14 days after they returned. They are excluded from school and should not return to school or child care services for a period of 14 days after arriving, as the COVID-19 incubation period can be as long as two weeks.

Staff and students who have been identified as close contacts of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 during their infectious period must also self-isolate at home, and should not attend school or childcare settings until 14 days after their last contact with the infected person.

For more information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and NSW schools, universities and childcare centres, refer to Schools, universities and childcare.

Can my child visit aged care facilities?

As children can spread a range of respiratory infections, and are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures, children aged 16 years and younger should not visit aged care facilities. Exemptions to this can be assessed by the facility on a case-by-case basis, for example where the resident is in palliative care.

Anyone who is sick, even with minimal symptoms, should also defer their visit until they are well.

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

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.

Do I need to isolate myself if I have returned from holiday?

If you have been overseas in the last 14 days, you should isolate yourself for 14 days after you returned. From 11.59pm on Saturday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia from overseas will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel). Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks at the airport.

You should watch out for symptoms.

If you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel, you should:

  • Call your doctor or healthdirect on 1800 022 222. When you call, tell them where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.
    or (if your symptoms are severe)
  • visit your local Emergency Department. When you arrive, immediately tell staff where you have travelled or if you have been in contact with a confirmed case.

If you need to seek medical care wear a surgical mask if available when attending. It is important if you have symptoms you should not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services.

If I am worried about having COVID-19, can I ask to get tested?

If you develop fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and other symptoms and have travelled overseas in the 14 days before developing symptoms, you should see your GP or visit your local Emergency Department to be tested for COVID-19. If you are visiting your GP, please call ahead before seeing your doctor and and tell them where you have travelled.

If you are become unwell with these symptoms without travel you should see your local GP and discuss your symptoms. There are other illnesses such as influenza that your GP may wish to test you for that can cause your symptoms.

My work is saying that I need to get tested for COVID-19 as I have travelled recently - what should I do?

There is no need for you to be tested unless you develop fever, cough, runny nose, and shortness of breath or other symptoms and have travelled overseas in the 14 days before developing symptoms. You should see your GP or visit your local Emergency Department to be tested for COVID-19. If you are visiting your GP, please call ahead beforehand and tell them where you have travelled. You should self-isolate and exclude yourself from work until your test result is available.

If you are become unwell with these symptoms without travel you should see your local GP and discuss your symptoms. There are other illnesses such as influenza that your GP may wish to test you for that can cause your symptoms.

Home isolation

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

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:

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?

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

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.

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

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.

Do I need to be tested before leaving isolation?

If you remain well after 14 days, you do not require any tests before leaving isolation.

If you develop any respiratory symptoms or fever during isolation, contact your doctor or the local public health unit on 1300 066 055 to get assessed and tested for COVID-19.

Even if you test negative, you will still need to remain in isolation for the original 14 day isolation period.

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?

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.

Social distancing

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means reducing the number of close physical and social contacts we have with one another.

Combining social distancing with good personal hygiene slows the spread of a pandemic. This helps protect the most vulnerable members of the community and reduces the impact of the pandemic on essential, life-saving health services.

While practising social distancing, people can leave to seek medical care, buy food and supplies, exercise or go to work or education (if you can’t do so from home).

For those activities outside the workplace or attendance at schools, universities and childcare - social distancing includes:

  • only being in public spaces with members of your household or one other person (two-person rule).
  • not shaking hands, hugging or kissing as a greeting.
  • keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and other people, where possible.
  • avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.
  • using debit and credit cards instead of cash and make use of online and self-serve transactions (for example Opal cards on public transport).
  • taking public transport in off-peak periods if you can.

For more information about social distancing, refer to NSW Government - Social distancing.

Who should practice social distancing?

Everyone should practice social distancing, as it reduces the potential for transmission.

For more information about social distancing, refer to NSW Government - Social distancing.

Is it safe for me to go to the gym?

No. On 23 March 2020 the Minister made Public Health Order that directs the closure of certain places of social gathering (Places Order), including gyms and other indoor recreation facilities.

Keeping fit remains important, visit Make Healthy Normal for workouts you can try at home.


Should I be bulk-buying items to prepare?

There is no need to bulk-buy products at supermarkets including toilet paper, paracetamol and canned food.

It is prudent for households to have a small stock of non-perishable groceries to cover the event that in the coming months the household has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. However, it’s important to note the role of family and friends in supporting those in isolation and also to note that online grocery delivery services are now available in most areas of NSW.

Pets and animals

Can pets be infected with COVID-19?

While COVID-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now mainly spreading from person-to-person. There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in Australia might be a source of infection with this new virus. There have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in Australia.

There is also no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals.

Can I be infected with COVID-19 from Australian bats?

At this stage, there is no evidence that bats (or any other animals) carry the COVID-19 virus in Australia. However, Australian bats can carry other serious infections, such as Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus so they are best avoided. You should also avoid bats overseas.

Where can I find more information?

This page is also available in various community languages.

Easy english resources​ are also available.

Page Updated: Thursday 2 April 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW