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Self-isolation for COVID-19

12-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.

What is ‘isolation’ or ‘self-isolation’?

Isolation or self-isolation is when you remain in your home or accommodation and avoid contact with other people. Most people who need to self-isolate will probably be advised to do so for 14 days.

How do I self-isolate?

During isolation, you must stay at home or in your accommodation for 14 days. Don’t go to public places or places where you might have contact with other people, such as work, school, childcare, university or public gatherings.

Only people who usually live with you should be in the same home. Avoid seeing visitors. If you are in another form of accommodation, such as a hotel, avoid contact with other guests or staff.

When travelling home or to your accommodation to start isolation, use personal transport, such as a car, if you can. This will minimise your exposure to others.

When in isolation, monitor yourself for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Other early symptoms include chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose and muscle pain.

If you become unwell, all other members of your household must self-isolate. Use the Symptom Checker, below, to find out what to do next.

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


If the Symptom Checker tells you to seek medical help, it is very important that you call before visiting your doctor or the hospital emergency department, to describe your symptoms and travel history. The doctor will provide further advice on self-isolation and testing for everyone who lives with you.

What if I have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19?

If you are well enough to remain in your home or accommodation, you should:

  • stay at home and not attend work or school
  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • cough and sneeze into your elbow
  • avoid cooking for or caring for other members of your household
  • 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
  • wear a mask (which your doctor will provide) 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
  • wear a mask if you need to go out in public (for example, if you need to seek healthcare)
  • ask others, such as friends or family who are not required to be isolated, to get food or other necessities for you (but restrict visitors who do not need to be in your home)
  • stay in a different room from other people or be separated as much as possible
  • avoid contact with elderly people and those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions (such as chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions, and diabetes)

Public health officers will contact you every day to check on your condition and let you know when it’s safe to return to normal activities. This is likely to be 1 day after your symptoms have disappeared. They will also give you a phone number to call if you have questions.

If your condition gets worse, seek medical attention:

  • Notify public health officers by calling the number provided to you. Follow their instructions — they may tell you to go to a doctor’s clinic or a hospital.
  • Call ahead before visiting the doctor or hospital and tell staff you have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you need to leave the house.
  • When you arrive at the doctor’s surgery or hospital, tell staff that you have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath:

  • Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell the paramedics on arrival that you have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19, people who have had contact with you, including family members and people you live with, will need to isolate themselves for 14 days from their last contact with you. This includes close contact in the 24 hours before you became unwell.

  • Visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for general information about self-isolation (available in English, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Italian and Farsi).

  • Visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for information about self-isolation when unwell with a confirmed or probable case (available in English, Simplified Chinese, Korean and Farsi).

If I'm self-isolating while waiting for my test results, then receive a negative result, should I continue to self-isolate for 14 days?

Yes, even if you have a negative result, you should complete the whole 14 days of self-isolation. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently estimates that the incubation period ranges from 0 to 14 days, with many incubation periods being 5 to 6 days. These estimates will change as more data becomes available.

Who else should be isolated?

Everyone arriving in Australia — including Australian citizens — must be isolated for 14 days from the date of their arrival.

If you arrive prior to midnight Saturday March 28, 2020, this can be done in your home or accommodation.

If you arrive from another country after midnight Saturday March 28, 2020, you will be quarantined in 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.

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of your last contact with that person. This includes close contact in the 24 hours before the person became unwell.

Do airline and cruise ship staff need to self-isolate?

Pilots and airline crew on active duty are exempt from these isolation rules, even when arriving from a high-risk country – provided they do not have symptoms, have used Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have taken the required health precautions.

Visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for information for the airline industry.

From midnight Sunday 15 March, cruise liners from foreign ports will not be permitted to dock in Australian ports for 30 days. To read more about this, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

When can I stop self-isolating at home?

If you are a confirmed coronavirus case with a mild illness, and you did not require hospitalisation, you can end your self-isolation if you meet both of the following criteria:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the onset of your symptoms; and
  • All symptoms of your acute illness have been resolved for the previous 72 hours.

Some people may have a pre-existing illness with chronic respiratory signs or symptoms, such as chronic cough. In this case, the doctor who has been treating you should assess whether the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 have resolved.

You should continue to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water; cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing, or cough into your elbow; and keep at least 1.5 metres (2 arms’ lengths) from other people.

Everyone needs to adopt these practices to help reduce the spread of all contagious diseases.

When can I be released from hospital isolation?

If you are a confirmed coronavirus case with severe illness — but you are clinically ready to be discharged from hospital — and you have not had 2 consecutive negative coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart, then you will need to be discharged to home self-isolation.

You can only end your home self-isolation if you meet both the following criteria:

  • At least 10 days have passed since your hospital discharge; and
  • All symptoms of the acute illness have been resolved for the previous 72 hours.

Some people may have a pre-existing illness with chronic respiratory signs or symptoms, such as chronic cough. In this case, the doctor who has been treating you should assess whether the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 have resolved.

You should continue to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitiser; cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing and dispose of them immediately, or cough into your elbow; and keep at least 1.5 metres (2 arms' lengths) from other people.

Everyone needs to adopt these practices to help reduce the spread all contagious diseases.

If you are a confirmed case of coronavirus who has had specimens taken at the time of your clinical recovery, you can be released from isolation if you meet all the following criteria:

  • You have been without fever for the previous 48 hours; and
  • All symptoms of the acute illness have been resolved for the previous 24 hours; and
  • At least 7 days must have passed since the onset of your acute illness; and
  • You have had at least 2 negative coronavirus tests, collected 24 hours apart, after your acute illness has resolved. (This will be reviewed as the pandemic evolves in Australia).

Healthcare workers and workers in aged-care facilities must meet these criteria to be released from isolation.

You should continue to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitiser; cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing and dispose of them immediately, or cough into your elbow; and keep at least 1.5 metres (2 arms' lengths) from other people.

Everyone needs to adopt these practices to help reduce the spread of all contagious diseases.

I’m worried about people who return to work or school or go out in public after isolation.

People are OK to return to daily activities if they have completed the 14-day isolation period and they have not shown any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 during this time.

The majority of people who have been isolated due to travel will not go on to develop symptoms.

Will people who return to work or school from isolation need any documentation?

Medical clearance or documentation is not required for people who return to work after 14 days of isolation, provided they had no signs or symptoms of being unwell while in isolation.

Workplaces are encouraged to accept leave requests, without requiring medical clearance, for employees who need to isolate themselves for 14 days and who have not experienced any signs or symptoms.

You can read about returning to school or childcare here.


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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