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Caring for people with COVID-19

8-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.

If you are caring for someone who has confirmed or probable coronavirus disease (COVID-19), there are things you can do to avoid getting sick yourself, and to keep the rest of your household healthy. Find out here what you can do to avoid the spread of illness.

How do I care for a person isolated at home?

  • People who are unwell and are isolated should stay home other than to get medical care. They should not go to work, school, or public areas, and not use public transport or taxis.
  • Call ahead before visiting the doctor to tell them that the person who is ill may have been exposed to the virus and has been, or is being, tested for COVID-19.
  • The person who is ill should be separated from other people in the home, stay in a different room and use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good air flow, such as an air conditioner or an opened window, weather permitting.
  • The person should wear a mask when in the same room as other people; the person who is not unwell does not need to wear a face mask while at home.
  • The person should wear a face mask if they need to go out in public, such as to seek healthcare.
  • Do not share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with other people. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Restrict visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home.
  • Keep elderly people and people who have compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions away from the person. This includes people with chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, and diabetes.
  • They should cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. Throw used tissues in a lined rubbish bin, and immediately wash their hands.
  • Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available and if your hands are not visibly dirty. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if the illness is worsening.

I share a home with a person who is ill with COVID-19. What do I need to do?

Clean all 'high-touch' surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day.

  • Clean any surfaces that may have blood, bodily fluids and/or secretions or excretions on them.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly.

If you have had close contact with someone diagnosed with, or a probable case of, COVID-19, (including contact in the 48 hours before they became unwell), you must self-isolate in your home for 14 days after your last contact with them.

Your local public health unit will contact you daily while you are at risk of infection to monitor you for symptoms.

There is more information for close contacts of a confirmed or probable case on the Department of Health website.

I'm a healthcare worker who's developed symptoms after contact with a patient

If healthcare workers have had direct patient contact and they have a fever and they have symptoms of acute respiratory infection (such as cough, shortness of breath or sore throat), they must:

  • be classified as a suspect coronavirus (COVID-19) case
  • stop work straight away
  • self-isolate immediately and be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • speak to their local public health unit if by stopping work this will have a significant impact on health services so an individual risk assessment can be done

This advice applies to all healthcare workers in all settings.

Can I visit or attend work at an aged care facility?

Visitors and staff (including visiting workers) cannot enter an aged care facility if:

Can I visit a friend or relative who’s receiving care in an aged care facility?

To reduce the chances of transmitting the COVID-19 coronavirus to residents:

  • Visits should be short, with only one visit per day. No more than two family members, close friends, or supporting professionals should visit at a time. Children aged under 16 should only visit in exceptional circumstances (such as when a resident is receiving palliative care).
  • Visits should be in a resident’s room or outdoors rather than in communal areas.
  • No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities, should be organised for the moment.
  • Visitors should practise physical distancing where possible, including staying 1.5 metres apart.

Phone, video call, apps and other ways to communicate remotely are good because they prevent transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus to or from the aged care facility.

What are aged care facilities doing to protect residents, staff and visitors?

Aged care facilities must advise staff and visitors to look out for symptoms of illness — especially the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and acute respiratory illness. They should ensure everyone practises hand washing and other hygiene measures, as well as physical distancing.

Staff and visitors must provide facilities details of their own health and stay away from the aged care facility if they are ill or think they may be ill. This is for their own and for residents’ protection.

Any staff with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath or sore throat) must not come to the workplace and must get tested for COVID-19 immediately. Staff should report this to the facility.

Where can I get more information about caring for a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19?

Information is available at the Department of Health website.

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: July 2020

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