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 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
Who is at risk of serious illness?
People are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 if they:
- are age 70 years and older
- have had an organ transplant and are on immune suppressive therapy
- have had a bone marrow transplant in the past 24 months
- are on immune suppressive therapy for graft versus host disease
- have had a blood cancer — for example, leukaemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome — in the past 5 years
- are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
People are at moderate risk of serious illness from COVID-19 if they have:
- chronic kidney failure
- heart disease
- chronic lung disease — but excluding mild or moderate asthma
- a non-blood cancer in the past 12 months
- severe obesity with a BMI (body mass index) of 40kg per square metre or more
- chronic liver disease
- some neurological conditions such as stroke or dementia
- some chronic inflammatory conditions and treatments
- other primary or acquired immunodeficiencies
- poorly controlled blood pressure
Having 2 or more conditions might increase the risk, regardless of the person’s age. If the condition is severe or poorly controlled, this might also increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
Other factors that might increase the risk of severe illness include:
- age — risk increases as you get older, even for those under 70
- being male
- living in poverty
People with medical conditions should discuss their risk with their doctor and how they can protect themselves.
People with disability
Some people with disability will be at greater risk because:
- they have different conditions that overlap, including chronic conditions and weakened immune states
- they have difficulties in physical distancing – especially people who rely on support and assistance from family, carers and support workers
- they may be unable to safely wear a mask
- they live in higher risk accommodation, such as a group home or larger facility
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.
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.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: January 2021