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Groups at higher risk of developing COVID-19

6-minute read

IMPORTANT: If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history and any close contact with a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19.


Some people are more at risk than others of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. Find out more here about vulnerable groups so you can help to protect them.

Who is at risk?

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are:

  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID -19 (including in the 48 hours before their symptoms appeared)
  • people in aged care facilities
  • people in detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings
  • people with a disability

Which groups are especially at risk?

People at most risk of serious infection from COVID-19 include:

  • older people
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart and lung conditions, kidney disease and diabetes)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have higher rates of chronic illness
  • people with a disability

People 70 years of age and older, those 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions, people with weakened immune systems and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with a chronic medical condition are strongly advised — for their own protection — to continue to stay home. They are also strongly advised to avoid contact with others and non-essential travel, maintain good physical distancing and hand hygiene, and download the COVIDSafe app. Where possible, consider getting groceries or medications delivered or picked up by friends and family.

People with disability

Some people with disability will be at greater risk throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to:

  • Risk of more serious illness if infected by COVID-19 due to an overlap of different conditions including chronic conditions and weakened immune states.
  • Difficulties in physical distancing for some people who rely on support and assistance from family, carers and support workers.
  • Inability for some people to safely wear a mask.
  • Living in disability accommodation such as group homes or larger facilities.

If I’m pregnant, is there a risk to the baby?

Pregnant women do not appear to be more at risk of developing serious symptoms due to COVID-19 infection than the rest of the general population. A large majority of pregnant women will most likely experience mild to moderate cold and flu-like symptoms.

But pregnant women are at serious risk from other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu. All pregnant women should practise physical distancing, good hand and cough or sneeze hygiene, and get their free flu vaccination.

So far, there has been no evidence to suggest a pregnant woman with COVID-19 passes the infection on to their unborn baby. But at this stage, not enough is known about the virus, so pregnant women should do what they can to avoid any infection.

If you have COVID-19 when your baby is born, every precaution will be taken to keep your baby safe so you can still have contact and breastfeed if you choose.

Pregnant women should speak with their doctor or midwife about how to stay healthy during this time.

Learn more about COVID-19 and pregnancy.

Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the most at risk of serious infection?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in remote communities are at a higher risk of serious infection from COVID-19 because it can be harder to access healthcare and there are higher rates of other health conditions in the community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years of age and older who have pre-existing medical conditions are strongly advised — for their own protection — to continue to stay home. They are also strongly advised to avoid contact with others, avoid non-essential travel, maintain good physical distancing and hand hygiene, and download the COVIDSafe app. Where possible, consider getting groceries or medications delivered or picked up by friends and family.

To keep vulnerable members of the community safe, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to maintain good hand hygiene, stay home if you don’t need to travel or feel unwell, and keep 1.5 metres from people you don’t live with.

To help protect the local Aboriginal population, Western Australia has banned all non-essential travel to, and from, remote indigenous communities. Exemptions are allowed for the delivery of essential goods, services and medical care.

Learn more about Western Australia travel restrictions.

Download the booklet Keep Our Mob Safe.

Get more information on the management plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations.

More frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19

Click on the links below for more questions and answers about the coronavirus (COVID-19).


Information and alerts

Visit the Department of Health's website for the latest alerts on COVID-19 in Australia, or the World Health Organization's website for global updates.


Resources in other languages

COVID-19 resources in other languages are available from the Department of Health, as well as from the ACT, NSW, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic and WA health departments.

Information is also available in Aboriginal languages (NT).


Information for health professionals

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) provides coronavirus (COVID-19) information for GPs.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020


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