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Other questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus

21-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.


Which types of public venue have closed?

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

Everyone is being asked to stay at home. However, you can go out if you need to:

  • shop for essential goods, such as groceries
  • travel to receive medical care, or for compassionate reasons
  • exercise (but with only one other person, such as a friend or personal trainer)
  • travel 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 physical 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?

'Category 1' and some other elective surgeries have continued since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

It is now considered safe to carry out other elective procedures, including IVF, endoscopic procedures, screening programs and critical dental work. However, they will be reintroduced in a cautious way.

  • 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’.

These surgeries and procedures can be reintroduced because Australia has received more protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and gowns. The relevant Commonwealth, state and territory authorities will monitor the reintroduction.

However, in the metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire lockdown areas, all elective surgery, except for Category 1 and urgent Category 2 procedures, has been suspended. This is to free up resources for aged care residences.

The capacity of the hospital where you are due to have your procedure may affect whether it can go ahead. Speak to your doctor or specialist if you are unsure.

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, physical 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 are 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 now available in Australia. 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 as soon as possible. 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 6 months and over should have a 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 6 months and older
  • people aged 65 years and older
  • people aged 6 months and older with certain medical risk factors
  • all children aged between 6 months and 5 years

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

What is remdesivir and how does it help treat COVID-19?

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that Australia has approved as its first treatment against COVID-19.

It is the most promising treatment so far to reduce the recovery time of people experiencing severe coronavirus infections.

It could potentially lessen the burden on Australia’s healthcare system.

Remdesivir is only available to someone who is severely unwell in hospital and requires oxygen or a high level of support to breathe.

There is no evidence that it prevents coronavirus infection or relieves milder cases.

Is Kawasaki disease caused by COVID-19?

There have been reports from Europe and North America that a very small number of children have become ill with symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease. The condition that presents with these symptoms, however, is known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS). Some of these children tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 may be a trigger for MIS in children. At this very early stage, the link is not yet clear and further research is being done.

If your child becomes unwell, it’s unlikely that they have COVID-19 without close contact from a confirmed case — let alone MIS or Kawasaki disease. If your child is sick, however (for example, with a fever, sore throat, rash, diarrhoea or unusual swelling), it’s important to keep them home from school and to call your GP.

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.

Do hairdryers increase the risk of spreading the virus?

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

What type of information is available for employers and employees?

Safe Work Australia has a lot of information for employers, small businesses and employees on how they can be part of a safe workplace during COVID-19.

Employers can find information on topics including workers’ rights, physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, training, emergency plans and risk assessments, working from home, and workers compensation.

Many industries and workplaces are covered, such as education, retail, healthcare, warehouse and logistics, offices, hospitality, trades, agriculture, transportation and more.

You can also find a number of resources, such as posters, checklists, infographics and factsheets, to display in your workplace that provide quick and easy-to-understand tips on making your workplace safe during COVID-19.

Employees can find information on workers rights, workers compensation, training, working in a healthy and clean workplace, working from home and mental health.

Visit safeworkaustralia.gov.au, and use the drop-down menus to find information about your specific industry.

You can also learn more about workers rights – such as working arrangements, leave, business closures and termination on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

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 businesses 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 Australian Government has released COVIDSafe — a contract tracing app to help health authorities identify people who may have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. The app is voluntary and free to use. To learn more, visit covidsafe.gov.au.

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 almost any medication available in Australia. 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 any 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?

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000) or you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Feelings of anxiety, distress and concern about COVID-19 are normal. Beyond Blue has launched the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service — a dedicated service for people who need counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1800 512 348 to speak with a trained mental health professional (24 hours 7 days a week).

Young people can get support through headspace centres – whether in person at a centre, online or over the phone. There are more than 100 headspace centres across Australia.

You can also call:

If you need more information and support, visit Head to Health for resources, helplines, apps, online programs and forums.

Where can I get help for domestic violence?

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm, or if you have been threatened, physically hurt or sexually assaulted, call triple zero (000).

If you are currently self-isolating or in lockdown, you can still leave your home if there is family violence or a risk of violence. If you're stopped by police, tell them you are feeling unsafe at home and they will help you.

You can also contact support services in your state or territory:

  • ACT: Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT - (02) 6280 0900 or dvcs.org.au
  • NSW: Domestic Violence Line - 1800 656 463 or facs.nsw.gov.au/domestic-violence
  • Qld: DV Connect - 1800 811 811 or dvconnect.org
  • Vic: Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre - 1800 015 188 or safesteps.org.au or the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria at dvrcv.org.au
  • WA: Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline - 1800 007 339 or (08) 9223 1188, or go to dcp.wa.gov.au/CrisisAndEmergency. The Men's Domestic Violence Helpline is 1800 000 599 or (08) 9223 1199; also go to dcp.wa.gov.au/CrisisAndEmergency
  • SA: SA Domestic Violence Crisis Service Line - 1800 800 098
  • Tas: Family Violence Response and Referral Line - 1800 633 937 or safeathome.tas.gov.au. The Family Violence Counselling and Support Service is 1800 608 122
  • NT: Dawn House - (08) 8945 1388 or dawnhouse.org.au. If you need to find shelters near you in the NT, there is a list at nt.gov.au/law. On that website, search for 'domestic violence shelters'.

There are a number of national phone support services you can contact

  • 1800 RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. Call 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au.
  • The Men's Referral Service is a family violence telephone counselling, information and referral service for men wanting to take responsibility for their violent behaviour. Call 1300 766 491 or visit ntv.org.au.
  • MensLine Australia provides support to men having relationship problems and men who commit, or experience, domestic violence. Call 1300 78 99 78 or visit mensline.org.au.
  • 1800 LGBTIQ is the WithRespect LGBTIQ+ service. It provides support to LGBTIQ+ people experiencing difficulties in their relationships, including family violence. Call 1800 542 847 or visit withrespect.org.au.
  • 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.

What support services are available for people with a disability?

The Australian Government has set up the Disability Information Helpline for people with a disability that need information and referrals because of COVID-19.

Call the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787, available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm (AEST) and Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 7pm (AEST).

Visit the Department of Social Services website for more information.

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.

How do I report illegal practices and claims around the use of medicines and products for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19?

It's important to be aware of false and misleading advertising. Unfortunately, some people are taking advantage of the current situation by advertising products and medicines that claim to prevent or cure COVID-19.

In Australia, the advertising of therapeutic goods — including medicines — is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and must meet certain requirements.

If you’re suspicious of any claims being made about a product that’s being advertised as preventing or curing COVID-19, fill out an advertising complaint form on the TGA website.

Which dental treatments are still available?

Dental treatments were limited to 'level 3' restrictions, meaning only emergency dental work was allowed to take place. These included:

  • 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 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

From 27 April, these restrictions will be lowered to 'level 2', meaning that more treatments will be possible, including examinations, fillings and hand scaling.

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.

Call your dentist to see if your procedure can proceed.

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 are more likely to get seriously ill if they develop COVID-19.

Vulnerable groups include people 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.

Should I, or my doctor, update My Health Record because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Most Australians have a record in the government's My Health Record system.

My Health Record can be a very useful tool to help you and your healthcare providers manage information about your health, particularly if you're dealing with multiple healthcare providers, including pharmacists, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you visit your GP or other doctor, they can help you make sure your record is available and up to date with the relevant health information.

Details of your allergies, adverse reactions, immunisations and medical conditions can help healthcare providers give you better advice and treatment.

In an emergency, it’s especially important for healthcare providers to be able to quickly contact you or your Emergency Contact.

You can also have an Authorised or Nominated Representative who can view and help you manage My Health Record. A family member, close friend or carer may be able to speak about your medical condition with a healthcare professional if you can't do so yourself.

Adding an Advance Care Plan to My Health Record will allow your wishes to be understood if you’re unable to speak or make decisions for yourself.

Learn more about My Health Record here: myhealthrecord.gov.au.

Can I breastfeed if I have COVID-19?

You can breastfeed or supply expressed breastmilk to your baby if you’ve been diagnosed with – or are suspected of having – COVID-19.

If you’re too unwell to breastfeed your baby, you can express regularly so that your baby keeps receiving your breastmilk.

It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before expressing. If using a breast pump, ensure you clean it properly straight away.

Breastmilk contains antibodies and other immune-protective factors that helps protect babies from many illnesses. Breastfeeding also keeps mothers and babies together, which is very important.

How do I perform first aid during COVID-19?

You must follow standard precautions when providing first aid. For example, you must wear gloves and an apron if there’s body fluids and blood.

Before and after you provide first aid, you must wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.


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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