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

Preventing transmission



Further information

About COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

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 in 2019, where it 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.

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

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.

Further advice is available at:

What are the variants of concern? How are they detected?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, like other viruses, is continually undergoing changes in in its genetic structure (its genome). Think of the genome as a blueprint that shows a cell how to create more of the virus. Every time someone is infected with a virus there is an opportunity for the virus to change a little. Most of the time, these changes don't make the virus more dangerous, though they can help us to work out where particular cases of the virus originated. However, sometimes the virus can change in ways that make it easier for the virus to spread, or to make people sicker, or both. When this happens, the World Health Organisation uses the name "variants of concern".

Variants of SARS-CoV-2 are identified by looking at the genetic code of the virus ("genome sequencing") and comparing the sequence of genetic material to that of other SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

In NSW, genomic sequencing of all positive COVID-19 swabs is conducted. This allows us to detect new variants of the virus and helps to confirm where the particular strain has come from. There are enhanced international border measures that have been introduced to counter the risk of variants of concern being introduced into the NSW community.

What is the Delta variant?

The Delta variant of concern was first identified in October 2020. It causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Delta variant is easily transmitted to household members of positive cases and has also been associated with infections in workplace and high-density housing settings such as apartments.

Data suggests that the Delta variant causes more severe illness and increased number of hospitalisations than previous strains of COVID-19 in unvaccinated persons.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a shorter period, and have a much lower chance of developing severe illness. The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are much more likely to contract, and therefore transmit the virus.

Further information is available on the CDC website.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus can spread from an infected person's mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe heavily. These liquid particles are different sizes, ranging from larger 'respiratory droplets' to smaller 'aerosols'.

Current evidence suggests that the main way the virus spreads is by respiratory droplets among people who are in close contact with each other.

People can catch COVID-19 when the virus gets into their mouth, nose or eyes. This is more likely to happen when people are in direct or close contact (less than 1 metre apart) with an infected person. For this reason, we generally recommend physical distancing of 1.5m and wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible. See up-to-date recommendations on physical distancing. The virus can also spread after infected people sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, or objects, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. Other people may become infected by touching these contaminated surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths without having cleaned their hands first.

Because COVID-19 is a new disease there is very little existing immunity in our community. This means that COVID-19 can spread widely and quickly.

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

How long does the virus 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 until you have washed your hands.

See more information on how to protect yourself and others.

Can it be spread in the air or outdoors?

Yes, COVID-19 can be transmitted both in the air and outdoors.

The SARS-CoVtil 2 virus can be spread from person to person through airborne droplets or aerosols containing the virus. Aerosols are tiny, invisible particles that are expelled when people talk, sing, shout, cough or sneeze. 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.

While COVID-19 can spread outdoors, transmission is more common indoors where there is less space to physically distance and aerosols can stay in the air.

Can it be spread in swimming pools and baths?

Ocean pools and baths are filled with untreated sea water, which is refreshed naturally by the tides or cleaned by local services.

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

If you are going to a pool or ocean bath, you should:

  • stay at home if you're sick or have even mild COVID-19 symptoms (and get tested)
  • stay at home if you have been asked by health authorities to isolate
  • do not swim if you have had diarrhoea
  • shower with soap before swimming
  • minimise time spent out of the pool
  • keep 1.5 metres from other people, including when in the pool or in the change rooms
  • follow the usual health advice to avoiding swimming for least 1 day after rain
  • go to the pool in off-peak times
  • contact the local council or responsible authority if you find that the pool and its surrounds aren't clean.

How does a 14-day period help stop the spread of COVID-19 infection?

The maximum incubation period (the time between being exposed to a virus and becoming sick) for COVID-19 infection is typically 14 days.

Most people who develop symptoms do so five or six days after coming into contact with the virus. However, it is possible that symptoms can appear anytime from between 1 and 14 days after being exposed to the virus. For this reason, people who have been in contact with a confirmed case are being asked to isolate for 14 days and be tested at the end of their isolation period to check if they have developed COVID-19 during this time.

You should still be tested if you develop symptoms any time after a 14 day isolation period.

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.

If you have any symptom(s) of COVID-19, even if it is mild, don't delay, please get tested and isolate while you wait for your test results.

While some people don't develop symptoms at all, for people who do develop symptoms these typically appear five to six days after exposure to the virus. However, it is possible that symptoms can appear anytime from between 1 and 14 days after being exposed to the virus.

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

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

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

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

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. The chart below shows the symptoms common of both conditions, and also the differences.

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 you develop symptoms, 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.

How is COVID-19 detected in NSW?

Diagnosis in individuals (nose-throat swabs)

The most common way to be diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection is to do a polymerase chain reaction test, also called a 'PCR test'. The most common way to do this is with a respiratory sample (a swab) from the back of the nose and throat. Samples for testing can be taken at your local COVID-19 testing or drive-through clinic, directly by GPs, some private pathology collection centres, 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 in consultation with a healthcare professional.

Diagnosis in returned travellers (hotel quarantine)

All returned international travellers are asked to undergo diagnostic testing during their quarantine period, to assess whether they have a COVID-19 infection. An additional test is required 2 days after their quarantine period is complete. This is an additional measure to help protect the community once travellers have left the hotel quarantine environment. People who do not have symptoms are not required to self-isolate while they wait for their result from this test, however they should not work in or visit a high-risk setting until they receive a negative result.

Screening in local areas (sewage surveillance)

The NSW Sewage Surveillance Program tests untreated sewage for fragments of the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus at more than 60 sewage treatment plants across NSW. This screening provides important data to support NSW Health's COVID-19 response. It can indicate that there is untraced COVID-19 in the community, and prompt the community to be extra vigilant about COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested. However, virus fragments found in sewage cannot tell us which individuals are or have been infected with COVID-19. They also cannot show whether the infection is active or is a past infection.

NSW Health reports the areas in NSW where there have been COVID-19 virus fragments detected in sewage. If you live in any of these areas you should monitor for symptoms. If you have even the mildest of symptoms (even if it appears to be a cold), get tested and isolate immediately. Symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat, cough, tiredness, fever or other symptoms could be COVID-19.

Additional information is available at Sewage Surveillance Program.

Screening high-risk groups (saliva screening)

As part of COVID-19 surveillance, the NSW Testing Program undertakes routine saliva screening of key groups of people who work in some high risk settings for COVID-19 infection. Saliva swabs are not used to diagnose individual COVID-19 infections, but they provide a more accessible and easy way to regularly screen large groups of workers who are more likely to have come into contact with people who are infected with COVID-19.

Additional information is available at NSW Testing Program.

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

Evidence to-date 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 (memory and concentration) difficulties, aching muscles and weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms, rash and 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.

Who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing serious illness?

Who is at most risk of contracting COVID-19?

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.

The Delta strain of COVID-19 can be contracted by people of all age groups, and is highly contagious among household close contacts and in workplaces.

Who is most likely to experience serious illness if infected with COVID-19?

Those who are at higher risk of serious illness if they become infected include:

  • people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer)
  • people with diagnosed with chronic medical conditions
  • people 70 years and olderAboriginal people with one or more chronic medical conditions.

The Delta strain of COVID-19 can be contracted by people of all age groups, with more people under 40 years of age admitted to hospital for treatment of serious COVID-19 symptoms compared to other variants.

To help you plan and manage risks please consider using a Coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan and discussing this plan with your family, friends, carers and health team.

The Australian Department of Health has more information about people who are most at risk of serious illness with COVID-19.

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

A high-risk setting is any place where COVID-19 might spread more easily due to environmental factors, and/or where the effects of an outbreak would be more serious due to health vulnerabilities among residents or patrons.

These include health quarantine facilities and transportation; international airports; healthcare and aged care facilities; residential disability care facilities; crowded or high-density housing; prisons; boarding schools; homeless shelters and residential/crisis hostels; Aboriginal communities, particularly in rural and remote areas; and food processing, distribution and cold storage facilities, including abattoirs.

The Delta strain of COVID-19 is also more easily spread in home and workplace settings.

Further advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19 is available for people who work in high-risk settings.

Are there risks to children and babies?

Newborn babies and infants do not appear to be at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 infection.

Most children and adolescents with COVID-19 have milder symptoms, and recover within one to two weeks.

Please see guidance for maternity and newborn care and schools, universities and childcare (early childhood education centres) for further information.

I am pregnant, what do I need to know?

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

How do we know that 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.

Information for people who live with or who are close to someone who has COVID-19 is available, confirmed cases and close contacts guidance.

Preventing transmission

COVID-19 vaccinations

Adults in NSW are strongly urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their families and their community.

For general information about COVID-19 vaccines see COVID-19 Vaccination in NSW or visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

NSW Healthcare workers should see the COVID-19 vaccination: information for NSW healthcare workers about the COVID-19 Vaccination Program.

What are the best ways to prevent spread of COVID-19?

There are currently restrictions in place for different parts of NSW, including stay-at-home orders in some areas. For the latest information on how to stay safe, please check the rules and restrictions for your area.

Some simple measures to significantly reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 and of spreading it include:

  • Regularly 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
  • Wash hour hands after coughing or sneezing, and before touching your face or eating.
  • Avoid contact with people who are unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms, and seek testing and immediately self-isolate if you develop any symptoms
  • Always wash your hands before touching your face and eyes
  • Greet people with a wave and a smile rather than close contact (such as hugging or kissing)
  • Maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others as much as possible, and avoid crowded places
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when in public places, or as required in the current restrictions
  • Show your care to loved ones in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment by non-face-to-face methods, such as phone, letters or social media.
  • Use contactless methods to buy things instead of handling cash
  • Catch public transport in off-peak times, if you can.

More information on how to protect yourself and others is available.

I'm having visitors at my house, what can I do to make this COVID safe?

There are currently restrictions in place for different parts of NSW. For the latest information on who can visit your home, please check the rules and restrictions for your area.

Following these simple tips helps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:

  • 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 you need to meet indoors, keep doors and windows open so that fresh air can circulate. If you live in a high-rise or a building where you can't open the windows, use the roof top, courtyard, garden or other outdoor space
  • Ask your guests to stay home if they feel unwell, to get tested and isolate until they receive their test results.
  • If you are unwell, don't have visitors and get tested immediately and self-isolate until you receive a negative result
  • Limit the length of time spent with people who you don't live with. Keep gatherings smaller and shorter than usual.
  • Space chairs out to allow physical distancing
  • Wash hands regularly, and place hand sanitiser on the table for your guests
  • Don't use shared plates or communal utensils (such as ladled, jugs or 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 information on what you can and can't do under the current rules.

Why, where and when do I need to wear a face mask?

There are currently additional requirements in place for mask use in NSW. For the latest information on when and where you must wear a mask, and what to do if you are unable to wear a mask, please visit Face mask rules.

COVID-19 can be transmitted by airborne droplets that are expelled through our noses and mouths. Face masks are proven to reduce this mode of transmission, and are particularly useful if you must be within 1.5 m of other people.

Find out more about situations in which it is advised and/or required to wear a mask.

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 website.

What makes some public settings higher risk for spreading COVID-19?

COVID-19 can be spread rapidly in environments where there is crowding, lack of ventilation, increased breathing from exercise, or loud talking or singing. Venues such as gyms, nightclubs and bars, and activities like group singing and live performance often have these characteristics. In NSW, COVID-19 has been transmitted in locations (such as churches or nightclubs) and events (such as weddings and funerals) where these types of activities take place. For this reason, restrictions are based on the findings of investigations of outbreaks, both here and overseas.

Information on current restrictions is available for different settings, such as gyms, sport and recreation; and group singing and music rehearsals and performances.

As a basic rule, NSW Health recommends reducing the number of people at events and keeping space between people. All businesses must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan which covers cleaning, record keeping and venue specifications.

How can I stay COVID-Safe in a heatwave?

While everyone needs to take necessary precautions to avoid heat stress, NSW Health is also urging people to continue to look after each other and practise COVID-Safe behaviours during hot 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, keep space between yourself and others and wear a mask in places where you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people.
  • It is essential to keep in touch with relatives, neighbours and friends; especially those living alone or who are isolated. Check in with them more regularly through a phone or video call.

See more information on heat and COVID-19.


Who should get tested for COVID-19?

NSW Health recommends that anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms should be tested for COVID-19. You must isolate until you receive a negative result. Follow the isolation information for people suspected to have COVID-19 infection.

Samples for testing can be taken at your local COVID-19 testing or drive-through clinic, and at a range of private pathology sites across the state, directly by some GPs, , 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 people without 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. Workers in specific settings (quarantine hotel, ground transport at the airport, airports and sea ports) are also tested on a regular basis, regardless of symptoms.

Additional testing may be required in particular circumstances to confirm that a person no longer has COVID-19 infection.

I am vaccinated but I have COVID-19 symptoms, should I get tested?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms you should get tested and isolate until you receive a negative result, even if you have had a COVID-19 vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccination will substantially reduce the chance that you develop COVID-19, however no vaccine is completely effective. It takes a few weeks for your body to build up protection from the vaccine. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having been vaccinated, and may transmit it to other people, including those that haven't been vaccinated. People who have been vaccinated usually develop a less severe illness.

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?

There are more than 420 testing locations across NSW. Locations of testing facilities are listed at 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, bike (where practical) or private car. Do not use public transport.

If you need a COVID-19 test and can't go to a testing clinic, refer to COVID-19 testing at home.

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?

The test requires a small swab to be inserted into both the back of the throat and both nostrils.While it can be a little bit uncomfortable, it is usually not painful.

What does a COVID-19 test actually test for?

Swabs are tested for COVID-19 and sometimes other viruses. 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 isolating because you have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, a negative test result does not mean you can end your isolation. You need to 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 in the future. 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 and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.

How will I receive my COVID-19 test results?

NSW Health Pathology automatically delivers COVID-19 test results directly to you 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 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. You will typically receive your results in 24 to 48 hours, but please allow up to 72 hours.

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

GPs and a private pathology providers have similar systems for delivery of results. Please check with your GP or pathology provider about how they will provide 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 positive for COVID-19 at a later time.

People who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection, and people identified as close contacts who have completed their 14-day 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 can still get a free COVID-19 test if you don't have Medicare, but please bring your Medicare card with you if you have one.

NSW Health will also 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, 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 COVID-19 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 means you must stay in your home or accommodation and stay completely separated from others. You cannot leave your home or accommodation, unless for medical care (including a COVID-19 test), or in an emergency. You cannot allow other people into your house or accommodation unless they usually live at the premises, or they are entering for medical or emergency purposes.

Self-isolation is different from stay-at-home directions (lockdown). When you are self-isolating, you are not permitted to leave your home for outdoor exercise, shopping, work or education.

A range of fact sheets and advice is available on how to isolate at the NSW Health website. Further information on the isolation rules is also available.

I need to get tested but I'm away from home, what should I do?

If you are out of your home and develop symptoms that could be COVID-19 (e.g. at work), you should get tested immediately at your closest testing clinic and then self-isolate at home until you receive a negative result. If you are a close contact or casual contact, please immediately identify yourself when you present for testing and follow the relevant public health advice for ongoing self-isolation.

If you are staying away from home when you become symptomatic or become aware that you are a COVID-19 contact, you should get tested immediately at your closest testing clinic and then self-isolate in your temporary accommodation if possible. Please read further information if you need to travel home.

I'm a casual contact, what should I do?

Being a casual contact means that you have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19 while they were infectious. As a casual contact, you will have been in the same space as someone infected with COVID-19 for a short period of time.

If you have been to any of the venues or travelled on the public transport routes listed on the latest COVID-19 news and updates, follow the directions to get tested, isolate until you receive a negative test result and monitor for symptoms. If you were exposed less than 4 days before you are notified that you are a casual contact, you will need to take another text on day 5.

NSW Health is unable to provide letters to employees to return to work if you are a casual contact. You can provide the message you receive via SMS from the pathology collector to your employer to demonstrate that you have complied with testing.

There is more advice for you on the NSW Health fact sheet casual contacts.

I am a close contact, what do I need to do?

A close contact is someone who has been close enough to a person with COVID-19 (a ‘case’) while they were infectious, that they have a reasonable chance of also getting COVID-19. If you are a close contact, you may be notified either by the case, your employer, NSW Health (including by SMS) or by reading the latest COVID-19 case locations.

Close contacts must self-isolate for  14 days since they were last in contact with the person with COVID-19. Self-isolating means staying apart from all other people, including people who live in the same place as you do. You must not leave your place of self-isolation for any reason, other than to seek medical care (including testing for COVID-19), or in an emergency.You must be tested with a nose and throat (PCR) test as soon as possible after you find out you are a close contact.

See further information for people who are close contacts.

I am a household close contact, what do I need to do?

You are a household close contact if someone living in your home has tested positive for COVID-19.  People who have tested positive for COVID-19 (“cases”) are required to tell people who live with them that they have tested positive and provide the name and contact number of people living in the home when asked by a health professional or Police officer.

Household close contacts who have been staying with a person who has COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days after the infected person received a positive result, even if they are fully vaccinated or feel well. Self-isolating means staying apart from all other people, including people who live in the same place as you do. You must not leave your place of self-isolation for any reason, other than to seek medical care (including testing for COVID-19), or in an emergency.  You must be tested with a nose and throat (PCR) test as soon as possible after you find out a person you live with has COVID-19.

See further information for people who are household close contacts, including how to isolate away from people living in the same house.

I live with/have spent time close to someone who is a close contact; what do I need to do?

Close contacts must self-isolate for 14 days since they were last in contact with a person who has COVID-19. During this period, other people who live with a close contact should minimise contact with them as much as possible. This includes:

  • staying and sleeping in a separate room
  • using a separate bathroom if available, and cleaning all surfaces after each use
  • not being in the same room as the close contact
  • not sharing household items, such as dishes, cups, towels and bedding.  These items should be washed thoroughly after use.

If you cannot self-isolate from the close contact, you will need to isolate with them for the whole self-isolation period (at least 14 days since they were last in contact with a person who has COVID-19).

If you are a healthcare worker and live with a close contact, you will need to speak with your manager and be risk assessed before returning to work.

See further information for people who are close contacts.

I am returning from overseas, can I be exempted from hotel quarantine requirements?

All travellers arriving into NSW from overseas are required to undertake their quarantine period in a designated quarantine facility. Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and 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've been diagnosed COVID-19, now what?

Information and support is available for you, the people you live with and others who care for you. Please see the NSW Health fact sheet for people diagnosed with COVID-19 infection and refer anyone you share a home with to the NSW Health fact sheet for close contacts.

Further information

Is there any special advice for schools

Please see the latest advice for schools on the NSW Education Department's website.

What am I allowed to do under current restrictions?

Information and updates on current restrictions in your local area, across NSW and for interstate travel is available.

Additional support

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.

Mental health support

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.

Advice for health professionals

NSW Health provides a range of advice and guidance for health professionals. Please return to NSW Health COVID-19 webpage.

Current as at: Monday 18 October 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW