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Other questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus

15-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.


Which types of public venue have closed?

The Australian Government strongly advises against any non-essential gatherings and any non-essential travel (even locally — see previous question).

Everyone is being asked to stay at home. Reasons for going out should be limited to:

  • shopping for essential goods, such as groceries
  • travelling to receive medical care, or for compassionate reasons
  • exercising (but with only one other person, such as a friend or personal trainer)
  • travelling to work or for study (but only if you can’t work or learn remotely)

Penalties, such as fines and jail sentences, may apply if social distancing rules are not followed. States and Territories will be responsible for enforcing this.

Many types of non-essential indoor venues, businesses and activities where large numbers of the public gather are closed until further notice. For information on this, as well as where you are allowed to go and what you can do outside of your home, go to 'Social gatherings and business closures during the COVID-19 outbreak'

I have elective surgery booked — will the surgery go ahead?

All non-urgent elective surgery will be temporarily suspended, to help preserve medical resources such as protective equipment. Cancelling certain elective surgeries will help prepare public and private health services for their role in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only Category 1 and some exceptional Category 2 procedures will continue. Category 3 surgeries will be cancelled.

  • Category 1 means ‘needing treatment within 30 days’
  • Category 2 means ‘needing treatment within 90 days’
  • Category 3 means ‘needing treatment at some point in the next year’

This applies until further notice, both in the public and the private health systems.

Yes, it is still safe to donate blood. Australian Red Cross Lifeblood needs more blood, plasma and platelet donors — an essential service to keep blood flowing to patients across Australia.

Current restrictions on travel and access to some services and venues do not prevent you, if you are feeling healthy and well, from going to a Lifeblood donor centre. Donor centres are safe, social distancing arrangements are in place and this critically important activity must continue.

To book a donation, visit lifeblood.com.au, call 13 14 95 or download the Donate Blood app here.

Should I be bulk-buying grocery items?

There is no need to bulk-buy products at supermarkets, including toilet paper, paracetamol and canned food.

The Australian Government strongly discourages the 'panic purchasing' of food and other supplies.

It may be useful for households to have a small stock of non-perishable groceries just in case the household has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days, but the risk of individual Australians being asked to quarantine in coming weeks is low.

If you can, ask family and friends to support you if you are in isolation — for example, by dropping off food and essential supplies.

What is being done to stop people from stockpiling medicines?

Pharmacists will only be allowed to dispense 1 month's supply of certain prescription products, at the prescribed dose. Sales of certain over-the-counter medicines — such as Ventolin or other salbutamol puffers, and paracetamol — will be limited to a maximum of one unit per purchase.

Pharmacists will be strongly encouraged to limit dispensing, and sales, of all other medicines to 1 month's supply or unit. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

When will the flu vaccine be available?

The flu vaccine is in Australia and is being rolled out. The Australian Government ordered a larger supply of flu vaccine this year (before the COVID-19 outbreak). This is to help protect the most vulnerable people in the community.

All Australians — especially those in vulnerable groups or certain ages — should arrange to have a flu shot during April. Speak to your GP, pharmacist or aged care provider to arrange your flu shot.

From 1 May 2020, all aged care workers and visitors must have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza to enter an aged care facility.

Everyone aged six months and over should have the flu vaccination and it is free through the National Immunisation Program Schedule for the following groups:

  • pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and older
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged six months and older with certain medical risk factors
  • all children aged between six months and five years

The flu vaccination does not prevent against COVID-19, but is critical to protecting the general health of Australians from influenza.

Is COVID-19 spread through food?

With proper food preparation and hygiene — especially washing hands before preparing and eating food — the chance of being infected and developing COVID-19 through food is unlikely.

Some coronaviruses infect in the gastrointestinal tract (the gut) and can be spread by the ‘faecal oral route’, which means the virus travels from faeces to mouth. However, this is unlikely to occur if food is properly cooked and prepared.

Can I catch COVID-19 from animals (and can animals catch it from me)?

There is no evidence that household pets can catch the virus from you — or transfer the virus to you. However, as part of your normal hygiene routine, it is recommended that you wash your hands with soap and water after touching animals.

Is the government sending infected people to Christmas Island?

Australians who departed on any flight arranged by the Australian Government were flown to Christmas Island to be quarantined for up to 14 days based on medical advice. This was a condition of their assisted departure. All of these people have now left the Christmas Island quarantine facility.

There are no plans to send people with confirmed COVID-19 to Christmas Island.

Do hairdryers increase the risk of spreading the virus?

Using hairdryers will not increase your risk of spreading the virus.

What financial or employment support is going to be available?

The government has announced several measures to help businesses and individuals who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information for individuals and families can be found at the Department of Social Services website.

Information for business can be found at business.gov.au.

Are there any apps that cover the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

The Government's Coronavirus Australia app includes a Symptom Checker as well as the latest information and advice, resources, government news and media, and contact details. The app is available on the App Store in the Health & Fitness category and on Google Play.

Get up-to-date information on the Australian Government's WhatsApp channel. You can access the latest COVID-19 numbers, get help and support, check your symptoms and more.

The healthdirect health app includes a Symptom Checker and pages covering COVID-19 and a huge range of other health and healthcare topics. Find a bulk-billing doctor or pharmacy with the service finder, and learn more about your medication with Australia’s most comprehensive medicines catalogue. The app will help you make informed decisions about your health and is available on the App Store and Google Play.

I received an email, SMS, or phone call about COVID-19 from someone I don’t know or don’t trust. Is it a scam?

Unfortunately, there have been several reports of scams related to COVID-19. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, please rely on Australian Government material.

If you receive a communication that you think might be a scam, delete the message. Do not open any electronic attachments, and do not click on any links. If you think someone may have accessed your financial information, contact your bank immediately.

For the most up-to-date information on scams in Australia, please visit staysmartonline.gov.au or call 1300 292 371.

What mental health support services are available for people who might be struggling?

Feelings of anxiety, distress and concern about COVID-19 are normal. If you need mental health information and support, visit Head to Health for resources, helplines, apps, online programs and forums.

To speak with a trained mental health professional, you can also call:

Where can I get help for domestic violence?

The Government is spending an initial $150 million to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus COVID-19. Some domestic violence support services have already reported an increase in demand.

If you are at risk of, or are experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, contact your state or territory support service:

You can also contact these organisations:

  • Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. You can also find the service you need here.
  • The Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491) is a family violence telephone counselling, information and referral service for men wanting to take responsibility for their violent behaviour.
  • MensLine Australia (1300 78 99 78) provides support to men having relationship problems and men who commit, or experience, domestic violence.
  • The National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline (1800 880 052) is a confidential service for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability.
  • Run by the Red Cross, the Trafficked People Program supports victims of human trafficking, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices. If you need help, call 03 9345 1800 or email national_stpp@redcross.org.au.

If you, or someone you know, is at immediate risk of harm, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Can I get my medicines delivered to me at home?

If you are older, have a chronic health condition, are vulnerable in some other way or you are in isolation, you can have Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medicines delivered to you at home.

You can also have your scripts filled remotely and delivered to you at home.

I can’t get a new prescription from my doctor – how do I get my usual medicines?

You can still get the medicines you need, at PBS prices, even if you can’t get a new prescription from your doctor.

Pharmacists can dispense up to one month’s supply of your usual medicine without a script. You must previously have been prescribed the medicine and the pharmacist must be satisfied it is urgently needed.

Pharmacists can also substitute dose strengths or forms of medicines without the prescribing doctor’s approval if a medicine is unavailable when they are dispensing.

Which dental treatments are still available?

All routine dental exams and treatments are deferred until further notice, including:

  • extractions, where there are no symptoms (including pain) or swelling
  • treatments for broken or chipped teeth, loose teeth (with no aspiration risk), or grating in the jaw joint
  • treatments for bleeding or sore gums, or halitosis
  • denture, crown and bridge work
  • scaling and cleaning

Dental treatments that can still be performed include treatments to manage:

  • acute dental pain
  • significantly damaged upper front teeth
  • soft tissue problems, such as ulcers
  • dental issues for patients with complex medical conditions, where the issue may affect their existing conditions
  • dental concerns where the patient’s condition is at greater risk of deterioration for socio-economic or cultural reasons
  • dental conditions of patients referred by a medical practitioner where the treatment is medically necessary

Any non-urgent dental care for people who are at moderate or high-risk of COVID-19 will be deferred until further notice. If the dentist decides the patient is at moderate to high risk of COVID-19, but that urgent dental treatment is necessary, the dentist will need to take additional steps to prevent infection.

Confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases can only have dental treatment as an in-patient or in a hospital setting and by appropriately trained dental practitioners.

I’m an essential worker, but at greater risk of coronavirus (COVID–19) infection – what support can I get?

Workers in ‘essential’ roles – such as in healthcare, emergency services or public transport – may need workplace support if they are vulnerable to infection with the coronavirus (COVID–19) or more likely to get seriously ill if they develop COVID–19.

Vulnerable groups include those aged over 70, over 65 with a pre–existing medical condition (or over 50 with a pre–existing medical condition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), and those who work in group residential settings, including correctional facilities.

Where they perform essential work, a risk assessment should be done and steps taken to decrease risk to the worker, such as reducing contact with any customers. Where this is not possible, the employer and employee should look at alternative arrangements if the vulnerable worker needs to be absent from the workplace.


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: April 2020


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