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 physical distancing.

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 been declared a global pandemic. 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?

The virus can spread from person to person through:

  • close contact with an infectious person (including in the 48 hours before they had symptoms)
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have 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.

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.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever (37.5 ° or higher)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • runny nose
  • loss of taste
  • loss of smell.

Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting and loss of appetite.

Unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis have also been reported as symptoms of COVID-19.​

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

You only need one symptom to get tested, and it can be mild. If you have a symptom, don’t delay, please get tested and self-isolate straight away.

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.

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. For people who are likely to be at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus, recovery may take weeks and in severe cases could be potentially fatal.

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, some private pathology collection centres, at your local COVID-19 testing or drive through clinic, or at public hospitals across NSW. In exceptional situations when someone is unable to leave their home, such as for medical reasons, a self-collection test can be arranged through Histopath in consultation with a healthcare professional.

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

Is there a cure or vaccine?

There are no vaccines that protect against COVID-19 and 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.

While researchers around the world are working hard to find an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, there is currently no evidence about effective treatment or vaccine.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with COVID-19 while they were infectious that there is a reasonable chance they will have become infected with COVID-19. Close contact can occur in a number of places including in the home, or at other venues.​

How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?

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. See also information on how to protect yourself and others.

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) wearing a mask where you cannot maintain 1.5m physical distance from others and good household cleaning are important actions to prevent both infections.

It appears with both viruses, it is possible for a person infected to spread the virus for up to two days before experiencing any symptoms. Typically a person develops symptoms one to four days after being infected with influenza but a person infected with COVID-19 typically develops symptoms five days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as two days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection.

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 reduces the risk of you having influenza at the same time as a COVID-19 infection.

People are encouraged to discuss with their GP or other immunisation providers how to organise to get their influenza vaccination with the physical 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.

Will the flu vaccine increase my risk of COVID-19?

There is no evidence the flu vaccine increases or decreases your risk of being infected with the other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. There is no evidence yet directly linking flu vaccination with an increased risk of COVID-19. In contrast, the evidence showing the benefit of flu vaccination in reducing the burden of flu on individuals, the community and the health system is strong.

It is more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this year because:

  • flu is a serious respiratory illness even in healthy individuals and can be severe particularly in the elderly.
  • flu vaccination reduces your chances of getting influenza, which means it reduces the risk of you having influenza at the same time as a COVID-19 infection. This is important because:
    • Even in a normal year, seasonal flu places a large strain on limited health resources in Australia each winter
    • Any reduction in the number of people getting flu this year will mean there are more resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected increase in patients with severe COVID-19 disease
    • Reducing the risk of getting flu and COVID-19 either together or one after the other has benefits for both the infected person and the health system

What are seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies, sometimes called ‘hay fever’ or seasonal allergic rhinitis, are symptoms that happen during certain times of the year or, for some people, are present all year round. They usually occur when outdoor moulds release their spores, or trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilise other plants.

Seasonal allergies triggered by airborne pollen can lead to:

  • allergic rhinitis, which affects the nose and sinuses
  • allergic conjunctivitis, which affects the eyes.

What is the difference between COVID-19 and seasonal allergies (hay fever)?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new form of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are group of viruses that cause respiratory infections.

COVID-19 and seasonal allergies share some symptoms, but there are often some key differences between the two. For example, COVID-19 can cause fever, which is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies:

Venn diagram of symptoms and relationship to COVID-19 and seasonal allergies. Possible COVID-19 symptoms that are not common with seasonal allergy symptoms include: fever and chills; muscle and body aches; new loss of taste or smell; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea. Symptoms common to both COVID-19 and seasonal allergies include: cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; headache; sore throat; congestion or runny nose. Symptoms common to seasonal allergies, but not COVID-19 include: itchy or watery eyes; and sneezing 

*Seasonal allergies do not usually cause shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, unless a person has a respiratory condition such as asthma that can be triggered by exposure to pollen.

Get more information on COVID-19 symptoms or seasonal allergy symptoms.

What should you do if you suffer from seasonal allergies (hay fever)?

Since some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference between them. If you are unsure about what might be affecting you, please contact your GP. Most GPs are currently able to provide telehealth consultations for problems like these.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you should continue your current treatment regime to minimise your symptoms. You should also consider talking with your GP about having an effective treatment plan for your seasonal allergies and/or asthma before the hay fever season begins.

However, if you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms (even if you suspect it’s just your first allergy attack of the season) you need to immediately get tested for COVID-19 to confirm your diagnosis. If you normally have seasonal allergies and you experience any new symptoms or a change in your symptoms, you should also get tested for COVID-19 straight away.

If your COVID-19 test result is negative, and you continue to have symptoms or recurrent allergies, talk with your GP about a management plan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protecting against COVID-19

What is the best way to prevent spread of the virus?

Some simple measures significantly reduce the risk of getting 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.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others as much as possible, and avoid crowded places.
  • Wear a mask:
    • If it is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others
    • On public transport
    • In areas where there has been community transmission
    • If ​working in cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs and other venues with a higher risk of transmission
    • When in high risk indoor areas; and
    • When caring for vulnerable people. Find more information on how to protect yourself and others​

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.

Based on what we know so far about COVID-19 and what we know about other coronaviruses, those who are likely to be at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus are:

  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer)
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions
  • People 70 years and older
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • There is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women.

To help you manage risks, download a Coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan.

Settings at higher risk of outbreaks of COVID-19 are:

  • people living in group residential settings
  • people in correction detention facilities

It is important to remember that even healthy young adults can have severe disease caused by COVID-19. COVID-19 can put you in hospital, no matter how old or young.

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. Preliminary evidence suggests that the spread of COVID-19 within schools is limited. Initial findings in NSW and overseas indicate low rates of disease in children and limited spread among children and from children to adults.

Please see guidance for maternity and neonates and schools, universities and childcare for further information.

What should I do if I am a close contact of a person with COVID-19?

close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with COVID-19 while they were infectious that there is a reasonable chance they will have become infected with COVID-19. Close contact can occur in a number of places including in the home, or at other venues​. 

Close and casual contacts are determined after a NSW Health official carries out a risk assessment of a venue or premise where a confirmed case was present. Factors involved in the assessment include the time spent at the venue, activities undertaken, number of people present, and the size and layout of the venue.​

If you are a close contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection in Australia, you need to be isolated for 14 days after you last saw that person and seek immediate testing. You must remain in home isolation regardless of the test result. Home isolation applies to all close contacts, even if you are well. It is important to monitor your health and report any symptoms as early as possible and get tested if new symptoms develop.

If you live in the same household as, or are identified as a close social contact, of the infected person, you should be tested again on day 10-12 of your isolation period. You should continue to self-isolate until you have completed your 14-day isolation period and have received a negative test result.

More information about home isolation for close contacts is available on:

What should I do if I am a casual contact of someone with COVID-19?

A casual contact is someone who has been near a confirmed case of COVID-19 while they were infectious but is considered at lower risk than a close contact. They should still be vigilant and watch for symptoms but casual contacts are NOT required to self-isolate in their homes UNLESS they develop symptoms.

Settings for casual contact may include healthcare workers, other patients, or visitors who were in the same closed healthcare space as a case, but for shorter periods than those required for a close contact. Other closed settings might include schools or offices.

NSW Health assess settings and interactions to determine the level of risk, this may change as further information becomes available. If you have been reassessed as a close contact you will need to isolate as per the close contact guidelines.

Find more information on casual contacts.

What should I do if I interact with someone who was identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case?

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 to 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 and get tested.

What should I do if I am a household contact of someone who was identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case​?

You do not necessarily need to self-isolate if you share a household with a person identified as a close contact, although the close contact in your house does need to self-isolate. You do need to isolate from your household member while they are in self-isolation. If you cannot adequately isolate yourself from your close contact household member then you will need to self-isolate too. In this situation you will need to self-isolate for the duration of your household member’s isolation period, and not be released unless the close contact’s quarantine exit swab is negative and the close contact is well. For example, if you and your partner are the parents of a child who is a close contact, one parent should be nominated as the dedicated carer of your child and go into self-isolation with the child. The other parent should either move out or, in appropriately large homes, keep rigorously isolated.

If a household contact or other close social contact, identified by confirmed case, has a household member who works in high risk settings (e.g. health care or aged care), they should not attend those settings until the close contact has a negative swab.

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

People with confirmed COVID-19 infection stay in isolation - either at home or at a health facility - under the supervision of health professionals. Their release from isolation will depend on whether they meet certain criteria, such as the duration of illness and presence or absence of symptoms. Refer to release from isolation for more information and the home isolation guidance.

I'm pregnant - what do I need to know?

See Guidance for pregnant women and new parents, which answers a number of frequently asked questions.

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, visit Seasonal influenza vaccination 2020.

Make sure vaccinations are up to date. Routine vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect babies and children from illness.

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

Breastfeeding

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

The benefits of feeding your baby breastmilk outweigh any potential risk of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.

To avoid spreading the virus, wear a face mask when you are less than 1.5 metres from your baby (including while feeding), wash your hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding), and avoid coughing or sneezing on the baby while feeding. Also clean/disinfect contaminated surfaces. Your health professional will talk with you about how long you need to continue these extra precautions.

If you are too ill to breastfeed, try to express milk for your baby. Consider whether someone who is well can feed the expressed breast milk to your baby by a bottle, cup or spoon, following appropriate infection prevention methods. You can discuss feeding options with your health professional.

Strict hygiene is needed when expressing breastmilk. If expressing breastmilk by hand or with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching her breast, the pump and bottle parts. Follow the recommendations from the manufacturer for pump cleaning after each use. The Raising Children Network provides guidance on Expressing and storing breastmilk including how to keep your expressing equipment clean.

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.

Formula feeding

Yes, you can continue to formula feed your baby.

To avoid spreading the virus, wear a face mask when you are less than 1.5 metres from your baby (including feeding), wash your hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding), and avoid coughing or sneezing on the baby while feeding. Also clean/disinfect contaminated surfaces. Your health professional will talk with you about how long you need to continue these extra precautions.

Strict hygiene is needed when handling feeding equipment. Follow the advice provided by the Raising Children Network on Bottle feeding: cleaning and sterilising equipment.

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

I have recently travelled to Victoria, can I travel to NSW?

NSW has temporarily shut its border with Victoria to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and jobs of NSW citizens. Most people entering NSW from Victoria must enter via Sydney airport and will need to self-isolate in a pre-designated hotel. People entering NSW from Victoria will need a NSW border entry permit. Your permit will indicate if you need to self-isolate for 14 days, get tested for COVID-19, abide by a COVID-19 Safety Plan, or any other conditions.

Special provisions have been made for:

Those working in high risk settings should be excluded from patient/resident areas for a period of 14 days from the date they returned from Victoria.

Preventing transmission

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

NSW Health recommends wearing a face mask where it is hard to maintain physical distancing, such as on public transport, in supermarkets and shops, in places of worship, in indoor venues with a higher risk of transmission, and if working in cafes, restaurants pubs and clubs and other venues with a higher risk of transmission.

Wearing a mask in any of these settings is not mandatory but is highly recommended, especially in areas where there has been community transmission. For more information and instructions on how to make your own, see General guidance for cloth face masks.

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. For more information see Information on the use of surgical face masks.

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.

Should I carry a face mask with me at all times?

Yes. NSW Health strongly recommends you carry a clean mask with you at all times in case you find yourself in a situation where you need to wear one. This includes:

 

  • when you can’t maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance​ from others
  • when in high-risk indoor areas such as public transport, supermarkets, shops, places of worship and entertainment venues
  • if symptoms develop while you are out of home 
  • if you are out of home and notified by NSW Health that you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, including if you have visited a listed venue​ and must immediately self-isolate
  • when caring for or serving vulnerable people​
  • if working in a cafe, restaurant, pub, club or other high-risk indoor areas. 

 

Always ensure your spare masks are stored hygienically in either a plastic or zip-lock bag or individually wrapped. See more information on when to wear a mask​ .

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. Staff also wear protective gear when cleaning to protect themselves and limit any spread of infection.

Can pets and companion animals 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. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there have been a few cases where people have spread COVID-19 to their pets, including cats and dogs. If you are a close contact, suspected or have COVID-19, you should minimise contact with your pets and companion animals, just like you would with people. Avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food or bedding. Keep your pet or companion animal indoors. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals. If you must care for your animal, wash your hands before and after you interact and wear a mask.

What community sports activities are permitted?

Community sporting competitions may recommence without restricting these activities to regions or zones.
In accordance with advice from the Chief Health Officer:

  • A COVID-19 Safety Plan must be in place.
  • More than one parent may now attend sporting activities provideding physical distancing can be maintained between people from different households. However, non-essential adults should continue to be excluded.
  • Participants should continue to avoid shared travel arrangements such as car-pooling, and to minimise gatherings before and after the event.

What school activities are permitted?

In response to cases of COVID-19 in NSW school students, measures were put in place in to minimise the risk of COVID-19 school transmission. These measures have helped protect the community and minimise impacts on students preparing for their HSC exams. The Chief Health Officer has reviewed these measures and provided an update for NSW School Communities and Community Sports Organisations. 

  • Interregional school sport may recommence without restricting these to regions or zones, where there is a COVID-19 Safety plan.
  • Group singing and musical groups may allow up to 5 people in one area if all singers face forwards and not towards each other, have physical distancing of 1.5 metres between each other and any other performers, and 5 metres distancing from all other people in front including the audience and conductor. Group singing of up to 5 people should only take place in a large, well-ventilated (preferably outdoor) setting.
  • Schools may proceed with planning graduation ceremonies and school formals.
  • Staff and professional development activities should not be conducted face-to-face unless absolutely necessary.
  • Planning of overnight activities should take in to consideration the level of community transmission and the ability to safely isolation anyone who develops symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should be excluding from attending.

For more information, see NSW Department of Education.

Can I sing in a group?

Singing is an activity where people may expel a lot of air and possibly fine droplets of saliva. In this way, singing may be comparable to coughing. When people do these things in groups (for example in a band, choir or karaoke), the likelihood of the virus being present and spread is increased.

In accordance with advice from the Chief Health Officer, NSW Health recommends:

  • A small group of up to 5 people may sing together in a large well ventilated (preferably outdoor) area if all singers face forwards and not towards each other, have a physical distancing of 1.5 meters between each other and any other performers and 5 meters from all other people including the audience an conductor.
  • Ensembles and other musical groups should rehearse and perform outdoors or in large, well-ventilated indoor spaces.

Can I play my musical instrument in a group or orchestra?

The design of wind instruments, which includes flutes, clarinets, recorders, oboes and bassoons, has the potential to allow droplets to be expelled into the air. The droplets may be more likely to remain inside the instrument in the case of brass instruments such as trumpets, trombones and French horns.

NSW Health recommends:

  • Players of non-reeded woodwind instruments (such as flutes and recorders) should maintain a physical distance of 3 meters from others in the direction of air flow form their instruments, and 1.5m in all other directions.
  • Players of all other instruments (including reeded woodwind instruments) should maintain a physical distance of 1.5m between each other and the audience/conductor.
  • Ensembles and other musical groups should rehearse and perform outdoors or in large, well-ventilated indoor spaces.

Can I sing at church, funerals or weddings?

If singing or chanting is involved in a religious service, wedding or funeral, it is recommended that this is in line with the general advice around singing.

In accordance with advice from the Chief Health Officer, NSW Health recommends:

  • A small group of up to 5 people may sing together in a large well ventilated (preferably outdoor) area if all singers face forwards and not towards each other, have a physical distancing of 1.5 meters between each other and any other performers and 5 meters from all other people including the audience an conductor.
  • Ensembles and other musical groups should rehearse and perform outdoors or in large, well-ventilated indoor spaces.

Read more at Industry guidelines for COVID Safe workplaces - Places of worship.

Is singing in schools permitted?

Group singing and choral activities in schools is permitted for small groups up to 5 people so long as 1.5m physical distancing is maintained between singers and 5 meters from others, including the audience and conductor.

In primary school and preschool settings, in-class educational activities such as group repetition, chanting, recitation or singing may occur, provided this takes place outdoors or in a well-ventilated indoor environment.

Teachers, and any other adults present, must maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing for these in-class educational activities.

This activity is permitted due to the importance of these activities in children’s education and development, and the lower transmission risk between primary students.

Can I attend a dance class, participate in school performance dance or go dancing?

If you’re attending a dance class, in the studio you should be able to take two steps in any direction without risk of collision – this is around 1.5m distance. If you can’t, it’s probably too crowded and you should bring this to the attention of your instructor.

School performance dance is only permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as year 12 higher school certificate performance. In these circumstances risk assessment should be undertaken, and a COVID-19 Safety Plan developed.

Remember that nightclubs in NSW are currently closed as they are considered high-risk venues for transmission of COVID-19. Keep up to date with what is and isn’t allowed at What you can and can't do under the rules.

Can I dance at a wedding?

A COVID-19 Safety plan must be in place for all weddings. On the 24 September, the Minister for Health and Medical Research announced that  dancing may take place for up to 20 people in the official wedding party. Information on COVID-19 Safety Plans for wedding ceremonies and receptions is available at Wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Can I dance at an organised function such as a birthday or christening?

Dancefloors are not permitted (except for up to 20 people in the official wedding party at a wedding) at conferences, functions or corporate events. Read more at Conferences, functions, corporate events and Wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Dancing is also not recommended at places of worship at this time. For example, group liturgical dance should not occur. Read more Places of worship.

If it’s a party at home, please remember dancing together is a good way to spread COVID-19, so backyard discos and dance parties are not recommended.

Testing

Who should get tested for COVID-19?

NSW Health now recommends that anyone displaying any COVID-19 symptoms should be tested for COVID-19. You must self-isolate until you are advised of the result of your test in line with Home isolation guidance for people suspected to have COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection

This is especially important for:

  • anyone who lives or works in a high risk setting, including healthcare facilities, aged care and other residential facilities, schools, prisons, and other closed settings
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who are close contacts of a confirmed case or who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • anyone admitted to hospital
  • people who reside in areas for increased testing and surveillance (Note: these areas are updated weekly - see Areas for increased testing and surveillance).

Samples for testing can be taken directly by GPs, at your local COVID-19 testing or drive through clinic, 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 clinics

What is "asymptomatic testing"?

​Asymptomatic testing is testing people who do not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID -19 include:

  • fever (37.5°C or higher) or history of fever (night sweats, chills)
  • cough
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • sore throat
  • loss of smell
  • loss of taste

Should people with no symptoms get tested for COVID-19?

Testing of asymptomatic people (that is, people with no symptoms) is not recommended routinely. In certain high risk outbreak settings, PHU may consider testing asymptomatic contacts to inform management of the outbreak

Immunocompromised people who were confirmed cases, must have two PCR negative respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart at least 7 days after symptom onset, in addition to meeting the release from isolation criteria.

Who should have an asymptomatic test?

Asymptomatic people do not require testing, except in special circumstances e.g. in certain high risk outbreak settings or returned travellers.

Currently, NSW Health recommends testing if you:

  • exhibit symptoms of COVID-19
  • have been to a location during the time associated with a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • if you live in an area or suburb with increased testing and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms

However, you may be required to undergo asymptomatic testing if:

  • your flight requires you to have a negative test result
  • your employer requires you to have a negative test result

Where would I go for asymptomatic testing?

Asymptomatic testing can be completed at a private facility. You would need a referral from your GP to get tested there. Locations of private facilities can be found at COVID-19 Clinics.

Note: Getting tested at a private facility will not be covered by Medicare and will be at your own expense.

Note: If you go to see a doctor make sure you wear a surgical mask while you go there. You should travel directly to the doctor or COVID-19 clinic by foot (where practical) or private car. NSW Health advises you not to use public transport.

For further advice, please see the COVID-19 control guideline for public health units or call the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

Is it safe to get tested for COVID-19?

Yes, it’s safe to get tested. All medical staff wear protective gear and there’ll be a safe place to wait.

Is COVID-19 testing painful?

Testing for COVID-19 can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful.

What does a COVID-19 test actually test for?

Swabs are tested for COVID-19 and sometimes other viruses only. The COVID-19 swabs are not tested for drugs, cancer or anything else.

What does a negative COVID-19 test result mean?

A negative result means that COVID-19 is unlikely to be the cause of someone's current symptoms.

However, a negative test result in someone who is well does not guarantee that they have not been infected as it may still be early in their illness.

If you are in home isolation because you 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 your last close contact with a COVID-19 case.

Do I need to get retested for COVID-19 if I get symptoms again but my first test result was negative?

A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. However, that does not mean you will not get COVID-19. If you experience symptoms again, such as a fever, cough, sore/scratchy throat, change in taste or smell, stuffy nose or shortness of breath, get tested.

How will I receive my COVID-19 test results?

NSW Health Pathology has pioneered a solution to automatically deliver COVID-19 test results directly to patients via SMS (text message).

If you’ve been tested for COVID-19 at a NSW Health public hospital fever clinic, COVID-19 clinic or emergency department you can sign up for the new secure SMS service. Your local hospital health team will provide you with details on the simple steps to register.

Your sample will go to a specialist NSW Health Pathology COVID-19 laboratory for testing. Typically you will receive your results in 24 - 48 hours, but please allow or up to 72 hours.

Public healthcare professionals will continue to contact patients who test positive for COVID-19 as a priority.

If you had your COVID-19 test sample taken in the community by your GP or a private pathology provider, you will need to contact your doctor for your COVID-19 results.

For more information, contact NSW Health Pathology.

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

No. Doctors are unable to issue medical clearance certificates because if you do not have any symptoms, there is no test that can be done to predict whether or not you will become unwell.

People who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, and people identified as close contacts who have completed their 14-day quarantine may be provided letters to confirm their isolation or quarantine period has finished.

For people who have tested negative to COVID-19, the SMS text that is sent with your test results can be provided to an employer, school, university or other setting, if they request it.

What if I don’t have Medicare?

You don't need a Medicare card to get tested for COVID-19.

NSW Health will waive the costs associated with procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment and who are not eligible for Medicare.

If you test positive to COVID-19 and require treatment, NSW Health will also waive these costs. This includes waiving payment and debt recovery procedures for people seeking treatment at NSW Health facilities.

Is COVID-19 testing free?

Testing is free at public testing clinics, even if you’re from overseas. Testing is also free at private testing sites, however, as a referral is required, the General Practitioner (GP) may charge a fee for the initial consultation, and then again to receive the result from the GP.

Home isolation

Can I be exempted from quarantine requirements?

All travellers arriving into NSW from overseas or Victoria are required to undertake their 14 days of quarantine in a designated quarantine facilities (for example, a hotel). Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks at the airport.

Exemptions are only considered where there are strong medical, health or compassionate grounds, or the person is transiting out of NSW to an international destination other than a Pacific Island country (in this instance, New Zealand is not considered a Pacific Island country). For more information, refer to Exemptions for air and maritime quarantine.

I have been told I'm a close contact of COVID-19 case? Do I need to self-isolate?

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.

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

You should monitor yourself for any new symptoms. Watch particularly for:

  • fever (37.5°C or higher)
  • cough
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • runny nose
  • loss of smell or taste

Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting and loss of appetite.

If you develop symptoms, you should seek help as soon as possible.

You have three main options:

  • Call the HealthDirect hotline on 1800 022 222. When you call, tell them you are a close contact.
  • Call your local doctor to make an appointment, and tell them you are a close contact.
  • Visit your nearest COVID-19 clinic. When you arrive, immediately tell staff that you are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

More information about home isolation is available for:

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. Some supermarkets are offering priority services for people in isolation. To prevent infecting other people, make sure you wear a surgical mask when receiving a delivery or have the groceries left at your door.

You can also receive essential Medicare funded health services in your home, and for most prescription medicines, your doctor can send your prescription directly to your preferred pharmacy. Your relative or friend can collect the medicine from the pharmacy on your behalf, or you may be eligible for free home delivery under the Home Medicines Service.

Do I need to be tested before leaving isolation?

You should follow the relevant release from isolation advice.

If you are confirmed as having COVID-19 the need for a test will depend on if you were managed at home or in a hospital.

If your illness was managed in isolation at home, you can leave isolation once your doctor has confirmed:

  • at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms and
  • there have been no symptoms of the acute illness for the previous 72 hours.

If your illness was managed in hospital (but the reason for your hospital admission is not COVID related) and you have been discharged to home isolation, you can be released from isolation once your doctor has confirmed:

  • at least 10 days has passed since the onset of symptoms and
  • there has been no fever or respiratory symptoms of the acute illness for the previous 72 hours.

If your illness was managed in hospital (COVID-related) you can be released from isolation provided at least 14 days has passed since the onset of symptoms and there has been no fever or respiratory symptoms of the acute illness for the previous 72 hours. If after this time you still have symptoms of an acute illness you can be released from isolation provided:

  • at least 14 days has passed since the onset of symptoms, and
  • there has been substantial improvement in symptoms of the acute illness (including resolution of fever for previous72 hours), and
  • you have had two consecutive respiratory specimens negative for COVID by PCR taken at least 24 hours apart at least 11 days from symptom onset

If you are a close contact or a returned traveller you will be required to have a COVID-19 test on day 10-12 prior to 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 had 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.

Physical distancing

What is physical distancing?

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

Combining physical 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.

Physical distancing includes:

  • 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 physical distancing, refer to NSW Government - Physical distancing.

Who should practice physical distancing?

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

For more information about physical distancing, refer to NSW Government - Physical distancing.

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 physical 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.

Where can I find more information?

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Page Updated: Monday 19 October 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW