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 caused by SARS-CoV2, a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been 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.

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

The COVID-19 virus is significantly different from viruses causing the ‘flu (influenza virus) and other respiratory illnesses (for example, RSV, rhinovirus).

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.

People may be highly infectious before their symptoms show. Even people with mild or no symptoms can spread COVID-19.

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, acute blocked nose (congestion), 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 symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, don’t delay, please get tested and self-isolate while you wait for your test results.

The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically five to six days, although may range from two 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 currently no vaccines that have been approved for use in Australia to protect against COVID-19. Researchers around the world are working hard to develop vaccines to protect against COVID-19 transmission. The Australian Government has secured agreements to supply four of the most promising vaccines in development. The Therapeutic Goods Administration assess all vaccines for safety, quality and efficacy before use in Australia.

Early diagnosis and general supportive care remain important. Most of the time, symptoms will resolve on their own. People who develop serious disease with complications can be cared for in hospital. Researchers are exploring treatments, however there is currently no cure.

The Australian Government has stated that vaccine roll-out will begin in February 2021.

What are the long-term health impacts of COVID-19?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that COVID-19 can cause medium to long-term illness in some people.

Most people experience mild symptoms and recover from the virus in under 2 weeks, however if people do develop long-term health impacts, symptoms most commonly persist for 2 to 8 weeks after infection. There have been reports that some people experience symptoms for over 12 weeks. Ongoing illnesses can include:

  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • cough
  • change of sense of smell or taste.

Less common symptoms could include insomnia, low-grade fevers, headaches, neurocognitive difficulties, aching muscles and weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms, rash, depression.

The impacts of having COVID-19, isolation and recovery can make people feel anxious, stressed or worried. Conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder may also be experienced by some people after a diagnosis of COVID-19.

If you are recovering from COVID-19, you should pay attention to any new symptoms and discuss them with your doctor.

How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?

Early research suggests that the length of time that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). 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.

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 that 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 to six 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?

The influenza vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, however, it will be important to get a flu vaccination next flu season. 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. Being vaccinated against the flu also helps to protect others, particularly people who are more vulnerable to infections (e.g. elderly people). The flu vaccination for next flu season is expected to become available in NSW from May 2021.

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 currently no evidence 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.

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 a 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.

If your symptoms change or your normal medication is not having its usual effect, you should get tested for COVID-19.

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

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
  • large gatherings in residential homes
  • 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. Whilst there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NSW schools, 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 newborn care and schools, universities and childcare (early childhood education centres) for further information.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with COVID-19 while that person was 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.

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

Close contacts are determined after a NSW Health official carries out a risk assessment on the locations where a person with COVID-19 has visited whilst they are infectious. Settings might include public transport, residential homes, restaurants, pubs, cafes and other locations where the person has come into contact with people. Factors involved in the risk assessment include the time spent at the location, activities undertaken, the number of people present, and the size and layout of the setting or location.

If you are a close contact of a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection, you need to be isolated for 14 days after you last saw that person and get a COVID-19 test immediately. Tell the testing clinic staff that you are a close contact when you get tested. You must self-isolate regardless of the test result. Self-isolating 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.

You will also need to have a test again on day 12 (since your last contact with an infected person) of your isolation period. Again, let the clinic staff know that you are a close contact. You must continue to self-isolate until you have completed your isolation period and have received a negative test result.

See NSW Health's fact sheet for close contacts.

More information about self-isolation is available on COVID-19 self isolation guidelines and information.

What is a casual contact?

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. Casual contacts might have been in an enclosed space at the same time as an identified case, but for shorter periods than those required for a close contact. Settings for casual contact may include healthcare facilities, public transport, public places or businesses.

What should I do if I was at a venue when an infectious case was present?

Check the Latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW to confirm whether you were at a venue or place when an infectious case was present. Follow the directions for the venue of concern. In most cases, casual contacts will be directed to get tested immediately and stay at home until you receive a negative test result.

In some cases, if NSW Health determines that your casual contact was low risk, you may be directed to monitor for symptoms and get tested if you get symptoms.

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. However if you live with the close contact you will need to isolate until they are tested and have a negative test result.

If a close contact becomes confirmed as a COVID-19 case, public health authorities will conduct an assessment of who has been in close contact with the person while they were infectious. 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?

If you share a house with a close contact, you will need to self-isolate until the close contact receives an initial negative test result. After the close contact receives an initial negative test result, household members of the close contact are no longer required to self-isolate.

If you cannot adequately isolate yourself from a person who is a close contact in your home then you will also need to self-isolate. 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 has a negative test swab since becoming a close contact. 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 isolation with the child. The other parent should either move out or, in appropriately large homes, keep rigorously isolated.

People who work in high risk settings (e.g. residential settings such as aged care facilities, military residential groups, boarding schools, boarding houses, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, remote industrial sites with accommodation, migrant workers accommodation, remote communities, abattoirs) must isolate from the contact and not attend high risk settings until effective isolation is achieved.

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 confirmed cases and close contacts guidance.

I'm pregnant or a new parent - what do I need to know?

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

Preventing transmission

What are the current restrictions for NSW?

See the NSW Government website for current restrictions in NSW.

Please monitor for symptoms and regularly check the latest COVID-19 case locations.

Do face masks protect against COVID-19? 

The main value of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If used correctly, masks may prevent sick people from infecting others.

If you are unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will reduce the chance that you pass COVID-19 on to others.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

Wearing a face mask is mandatory in some indoor settings in Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains). Learn about when you need to wear a face mask, when you can remove it and who is exempt.

You should also wear a face mask:

  • if it is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others
  • 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 location with a reported case and must self-isolate immediately)
  • when caring for or serving vulnerable people
  • when you are visiting another household and you can’t meet outdoors or maintain physical distancing, especially if there’s an older or medically vulnerable person in the home.
  • have any symptoms and are seeking medical care
  • are going to get tested
  • are in the same room as another person when you have symptoms or have been asked to self-isolate. 

What type of face mask can I wear?

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Learn about the types of masks, where to buy them, how to make them and how to wear, remove and dispose of them correctly on the NSW Government wesbite.

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.

Can COVID-19 be spread outdoors?

Yes, COVID-19 can spread outdoors. However, transmission of COVID-19 is more common indoors, where there is less space to physically distance and droplets from saliva (produced by talking, laughing, coughing, sneezing) can spread easily. If you’re catching up with friends or family, choose an outdoor location if possible. You still need to practise good hand hygiene and maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from anyone you don’t live with.

Why is it safer to gather outdoors?

Gathering outdoors reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 because infectious particles such as droplets or aerosols are more quickly diffused in the open air than indoors with less ventilation. It’s also easier to maintain physical distancing.

If I’m having people at my house, what can I do to make this COVID safe?

  • Limit your visitors – celebrate on a smaller scale, don’t have large multi-generational gatherings.
  • Host your gathering outdoors and avoid the hottest part of the day
  • If hosting your gathering indoors, choose a large, well ventilated room. Open doors and windows if possible
  • Ask your guests to stay home if they feel unwell, to get tested and self-isolate until they receive their test results. If you are unwell, don't have visitors and get tested immediately.
  • If you are unwell, don't have visitors and get tested immediately
  • Limit the length of time spent with people who you don't live with. Keep gatherings smaller and shorter than usual. Plan for one or two hours instead of a half day or full day gathering. Limit your family gathering sizes or split then into different gatherings
  • Keep 1.5 metres apart from people you don't live with
  • Wash hands regularly, and place hand sanitiser on the table for your guests
  • Don't use shared plates or communal utensils (such as salt and pepper) and avoid buffet style meals
  • If you are unable to maintain 1.5 metres distance between guests, consider wearing and offering masks.

See more information on what you can and can’t do under the rules.

Is COVID-19 transmitted in the air?

The COVID-19 virus can be spread from person to person through contact with droplets (such as from an infected person sneezing or coughing) or through airborne aerosols. Aerosols are very small respiratory droplets that are expelled when people talk, sing or shout. These aerosols can remain in the air for some time and can build up if there is not enough ventilation, for example, if a group of people sing or speak loudly in an indoor space without windows or doors open.

How does opening windows help reduce transmission of COVID-19?

Opening windows and doors can help ventilate a room and more quickly diffuse any infectious aerosols that may be present. This can help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

What if I have people over but I live in a building, such as a high-rise apartment, where I can’t open the windows?

  • Limit your visitors - socialise on a smaller scale, don’t have large multi-generational gatherings.
  • Host your gathering outdoors where possible. If your apartment has a communal rooftop, courtyard or garden, then arrange to use that space for your event. If hosting at home:
  • Ask your guests to stay home if they feel unwell, and to get tested. If you are unwell, don't have visitors and get tested immediately
  • Limit the length of time spent with those you don't live with. Keep gatherings smaller and shorter than usual. Plan for one or two hours instead of a half day or full day gathering. Limit your family gathering sizes or split then into different gatherings
  • Keep 1.5 metres apart from people you don't live with. If you live in a small residence limit your visitors to an amount where you can make physical distancing can occur.
  • Wash hands regularly, and place hand sanitiser on the table for your guests
  • Don't use shared plates or communal utensils (such as salt and pepper) and avoid buffet style meals
  • Wear a mask if unable to physically distance. Even if you're wearing a face mask, it's really important to keep your distance from others, unless you live together.

How should I use fans and/or air-conditioning if I need to manage heat?

There is evidence that tiny droplets can be carried further by air that is pushed in a single direction from an infected person towards others. This may occur via fans or air conditioners in some indoor environments, especially if there is little fresh air coming into the room. A good indicator of a well-ventilated space is whether doors or windows are open, as they allow fresh air exchange to occur quickly. If it is a hot day and you need to use fans or air conditioners to cool down limit visitors to your house.

If gathering with people who you don’t live with, the best option is to hold gatherings outdoors or in other well-ventilated spaces with open windows and doors. If you need to meet indoors, keep doors and windows open so that fresh air can circulate.

How can I stay COVIDSafe in a heatwave?

While everyone needs to take necessary precautions to avoid heat stress, NSW Health is also urging people to continue to practise COVID-19 behaviour during warm weather.

  • If you’re able to cool your home through a combination of fans, air-conditioning and closed blinds, do so and stay at home. That way, you won’t compromise physical distancing in public indoor venues, such as shopping centres, libraries and community halls where people may seek respite from the heat.
  • Minimise visitors to your household during a heatwave.
  • If you do leave your home to attend other indoor spaces, please physically distance and wear a mask in places where you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from others.
  • It is essential to keep in touch with relatives, neighbours and friends; especially those living alone or who are isolated. Be COVID safe; check in with them through a phone call or video call.

See more information on heat and COVID-19.

How can I reduce risks when participating in community sports and dance activities?

Community sporting activities are allowed, including training sessions, dance and contact activities.

See more information on community sporting competitions and full training activities.

Participants should continue to avoid shared travel arrangements such as car-pooling, and to minimise gatherings before and after the event. More than one parent may attend sporting activities providing physical distancing can be maintained between people from different households. However, non-essential adults should continue to be excluded.

How can I reduce risk at the gym?

NSW Health advises that people in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and the Central Coast) should limit non-essential activities.

If you do go to the gym

  • Go at a time that will be less crowded
  • Make sure equipment is wiped down
  • Make sure class size limits are enforced
  • Make sure your membership details are up to date.

For more information see guidance for gyms.

What are the risks associated with dancing in groups?

High energy dancing and aerobic exercise, including Zumba classes in gyms, can increase exhalation and inhalation of respiratory droplets. Dancing can also result in mingling and encourages people to be near each other, which increases the risk of transmission if someone infected with COVID-19 participates.

Limits on the numbers of people dancing are put in place because nightclubs and functions such as weddings have been places COVID spreads easily. See information about what you can and can’t do under the current rules.

How can I reduce risks at my dance class?

For high-energy dancing, including Zumba classes in gyms, there should be:

  • additional physical distancing or smaller class sizes
  • cleaning with detergent and disinfectant after each class
  • holding classes in large spaces with high ceilings and good ventilation
  • if partnered dancing, avoid rotation of partners
  • good hand hygiene at all times to keep everyone safe.

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 advice remains that:

  • All singers should face forwards and not towards each other, have physical distancing of 1.5 metres between each other and any other performers, and be 5 metres from all other people including the audience and conductor.
    • The audience should not participant in singing or chanting indoors.
    • NSW Health strongly recommends people across NSW wear face masks in indoor settings such as supermarkets, shopping malls and other places where physical distancing may not be possible.

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 metres from others in the direction of air flow, and 1.5 metres in all other directions.
  • Players of all other instruments (including reeded woodwind instruments) should maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres between each other and the audience/conductor.

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 self-isolation information for people suspected to have COVID-19 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 of concern (Note: these areas are updated weekly - see Areas with increased testing.

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

I don't have any symptoms. Should I get tested?

Testing of asymptomatic people (that is, people with no symptoms) is not routinely recommended. In certain high risk outbreak settings it may be recommended that people without symptoms be tested to inform management of the outbreak.

  • you are a close contact
  • you have been to any of the listed locations of concern during the time and date indicated, and NSW Health instructions are to get tested
  • you live in an area or suburb with increased testing and you are experiencing any symptoms, however mild.

You may be required to undergo testing if:

  • your flight requires you to have a negative test result
  • you are a designated hotel quarantine worker or transport worker under the NSW Testing Program.

Additional testing may be required in particular circumstances to confirm that a person no longer has COVID-19 infection. If you had COVID-19 and are immunocompromised, you will be asked to 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.

I have asthma, seasonal allergies or another condition with symptoms that appear like COVID-19, should I get tested?

If you have an ongoing or seasonal condition that appears or feels like the symptoms of COVID-19 you should pay close attention to any changes in your symptoms. If you experience a change in your symptoms (even if you suspect it’s just your first allergy attack of the season), or you are unsure, go and get tested. You may normally take medication to manage your condition, if you find that this medication is not having the usual effect, you should get tested immediately.

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.

Where should I go for testing?

Locations of testing facilities are listed here: COVID-19 Clinics.

Make sure you wear a surgical mask while you travel to get tested. You should travel directly to the doctor or COVID-19 clinic by foot (where practical) or private car. Do not use public transport.

If you cannot travel by private vehicle or on foot, call the Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice.

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 self-isolating (at home, in your room or elsewhere) because you have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, a negative test result does not mean you can end your self-isolation. You need to self-isolate 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 self-isolation 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 or early childhood education centre, 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 for people with the mildest of symptoms and to determine any community transmission, however a referral is required for some private providers. Where a referral is required, your General Practitioner (GP) may charge a fee for the initial consultation, and then again to receive the result. If you require a COVID19 test for travel clearance purposes, please visit a private pathology. Please note that charges may apply for COVID-19 testing services for travel. See the full list of COVID-19 Clinics.

Self-isolation

Can I be exempted from quarantine requirements?

All travellers arriving into NSW from overseas are required to undertake their 14 days of quarantine in a designated quarantine facility (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. 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 ° 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, acute blocked nose (congestion), 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.

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 self-isolation is available for:

How can I access groceries and medicines while self-isolating?

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 which includes information about testing during self-isolation.

Are you worried about the impact of COVID-19 on your mental health or someone you care about and would like to speak to someone?

Support is available by contacting 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 contract COVID-19 from swimming 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?

Financial support for individuals and households

If you’re affected by COVID-19 and experiencing financial difficulty, please visit the NSW Government website for information on what financial support is available.

Information about COVID-19

Current as at: Friday 15 January 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW