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Groups at higher risk of developing COVID-19

7-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.

Check your symptoms

Use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.

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 being infected are those who have recently travelled internationally. Anyone who arrives in Australia — including Australian citizens — must be isolated for 14 days from the date of their arrival. Isolation means remaining in a home or your accommodation, and it also applies to children. If your child needs to be isolated, they cannot go to school or childcare.

From midnight, Saturday 28 March, 2020, all travellers who arrive in Australia must be quarantined for 14 days at a state or territory-designated facility, such as a hotel. Travellers will be transported directly to the designated facility after clearing immigration, customs and health checks. The facility will generally be in the city where the traveller enters Australia.

These arrangements will be enforced by the state or territory government with the support of the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force if required.

Air and maritime crews must continue to follow their current arrangements, where they self-isolate in their accommodation if they enter Australia until their next work voyage.

If you develop symptoms such as a fever (temperature of 38°C or more and feverish symptoms such as chills or night sweats), or you have an acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath or sore throat), you should self-isolate and seek medical advice immediately.

People who have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 (including in the 24 hours before they became unwell) are also at high risk.

If neither of these applies to you, the risk to you and your family is low.

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly.

Which groups are especially at risk?

Based on experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection include:

People over the age of 70 (over 60 for people who have pre-exisiting medical conditions, or over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have pre-exisiting medical conditions) are strongly advised — for their own protection — not to leave your home unless absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, you should ask family, friends, neighbours or community members to shop for groceries or collect medicines for you.

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

So far, not enough is known about whether there is a risk of infection to unborn babies. Pregnant women should do what they can to avoid any infection, such washing hands with soap and water before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.

You should also avoid touching your face and mouth while out in public. Avoid touching, kissing and hugging others.

To date, most of the severe cases of COVID-19 have been in older people and in those with a chronic disease. Health authorities are closely monitoring whether severe cases emerge in other groups, such as pregnant women. In the meantime, 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?

In Australia, the people most at risk of being infected are those who have recently travelled internationally — and those who have been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 (including in the 24 hours before they became unwell). If neither of these applies to you, the risk to you and your family is low.

Some people, however, have an increased risk of contracting respiratory illnesses, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over the age of 50 who have pre-exisiting medical conditions, are strongly advised — for their own protection — not to leave your home unless absolutely necessary. Wherever possible, you should ask family, friends, neighbours or community members to shop for groceries or collect medicines for you.

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

Click here for more information on Northern Territory travel restrictions.

Click here for more information on Western Australia travel restrictions.

More frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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


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: March 2020


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