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COVID-19 isolation and quarantine

14-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.


What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Both isolation and quarantine are measures that reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures are also referred to as self-isolation and self-quarantine.

Isolation separates people with, or suspected of having COVID-19 from people who do not have the virus. If you are required to isolate, you will need to do so in your home, in other accommodation or in hospital if you need care.

You must isolate if:

  • you have tested positive for COVID-19
  • you have symptoms and health authorities suspect you have COVID-19

Quarantine is when you are well but may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. If this happens, you will be required to stay at home or in other accommodation. The quarantine period is 14 days from when you may have been in contact with the virus.

You must quarantine if you:

  • have returned to Australia from overseas
  • have been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case or is likely to have COVID-19 — including contact in the 48 hours before they became unwell
  • are entering certain remote areas of Australia, unless you are exempt
  • are entering a state that requires you to quarantine

You must complete 14 days of quarantine if a public health authority directs you to.

If you remain well after 14 days, you can leave quarantine. If you develop symptoms during this time, you will need to get tested for COVID-19. Even if you test negative, you must stay in quarantine for the full 14 days.

If you test positive, you will need to isolate. Anyone who has been in your household is a close contact and must quarantine.

How do I isolate?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19, you must stay at home or in your accommodation until a health authority or your GP say you can stop isolating.

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. You should not have any visitors.

You can only leave home in an emergency or to obtain essential medical care. Someone can only enter your home in an emergency, if they provide you with medical care, or if they live with you and cannot live anywhere else.

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.

Only people who usually live with you should be in the same accommodation but you must, if practical, isolate from them as well. If you have household members who are close contacts, they will have to quarantine and get tested if they develop symptoms.

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 contact your GP, please make sure you call your doctor to describe your symptoms and contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. You can also attend a COVID-19 clinic in your area.

What if I am 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
  • avoid sharing 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
  • ensure others wear a face mask and gloves when in the same room as you — and especially if they need to have contact with your blood, body fluids or secretions
  • wear a mask if you need to go out to seek healthcare
  • ask others, such as friends or family who are not required to isolate, 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 from them 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 will usually be after at least 10 days from when you first started showing symptoms and 72 hours (3 days) after your symptoms are gone. 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 COVID-19 clinic.
  • Call ahead before visiting the doctor or attending a COVID-19 clinic and tell staff you are 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 you are 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 are a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

If you have COVID-19, people who have had close contact with you, including family members and people you live with, will need to quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with you. This includes close contact in the 48 hours before you became unwell.

Visit the Australian Government Department of Health website for more information about isolation and quarantine. Information is also available in other languages.

I’ve had symptoms, self-isolated, and received a negative test result before completing the 14-day isolation period. Should I continue isolating?

If you test negative but you have a history of close contact with a case of COVID-19, you should complete your 14 days of self-isolation.

If you have not had a history of close contact and you test negative, you should self-isolate until your symptoms are gone. This is because your symptoms may be due to another respiratory infection.

If you are unsure what to do, ask your doctor or healthcare provider how long you need to keep self-isolating.

Your state or territory may have specific legal requirements for self-isolating or quarantining — particularly after domestic travel. Your state or territory may also impose penalties if you do not comply. Check their website for more information.

When you are allowed to finish self-isolation, continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene.

Who must quarantine?

You must quarantine if:

  • you have returned to Australia from overseas
  • you have been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case or is likely to have COVID-19 — including contact in the 48 hours before they became unwell
  • are entering certain remote areas in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory — unless exempt
  • are entering a state that requires you to quarantine

People in specific settings

If you live or work in one of these settings, be especially mindful of the symptoms of COVID-19 and don't go to work if you are unwell. If there is an outbreak in your workplace, please follow the instructions of the Public Health Unit and your employer's COVID-19 policy. These settings include:

  • aged care and other residential care facilities
  • military operational settings
  • boarding schools
  • prisons and other correctional facilities
  • detention centres
  • Aboriginal rural and remote communities — talk to your local Public Health Unit regarding these areas
  • any other settings where COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred — talk to your local Public Health Unit for more information

How long should I stay in quarantine?

If you’re still well after 14 days, you can leave quarantine.

If you’re quarantined in government-designated accommodation in New South Wales or Victoria, you’ll be asked to take a COVID-19 test on day 10 (in NSW) or day 11 (in Victoria) of your quarantine. If the test is negative, you'll be allowed to leave once your 14 days of quarantine are complete.

If you develop the following symptoms in quarantine, you’ll be considered a suspect case and you must get tested for COVID-19:

  • fever — a temperature of 37.5°C or higher, or history of fever (for example, night sweats or chills) OR
  • respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath or sore throat OR
  • loss of smell or loss of taste

If you test positive, you must self-isolate. Anyone who has been in your household is considered a close contact and must quarantine. If you test negative, you must continue to quarantine as advised for the remaining 14-day period.

Do airline and cruise ship staff need to quarantine?

Pilots and airline crew on active duty are exempt from these quarantine rules — 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.

Cruise ships from foreign ports are currently not permitted to dock in Australian ports. Read more about this in Travel advice and restrictions or visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

When can I stop self-isolating at home?

If you are a confirmed COVID-19 case with a mild illness, and you did not require hospitalisation, you can end your isolation if you meet both the following criteria:

  • it has been at least 10 days since you first started getting symptoms; and
  • you have not had any symptoms for the past 72 hours (3 days)

You will only need another COVID-19 test if you are still showing symptoms.

It is recommended that you go back to your GP or clinic 7 days after your isolation has finished for a medical check-up to make sure all your symptoms have gone. Your GP or clinic may also collect a blood sample from you, but this is for storage and possible future testing.

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 arm lengths) from other people.

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

Healthcare workers and workers in aged-care facilities

Healthcare workers and workers in aged–care facilities can be released from isolation if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • they have not had a fever for the past 48 hours; and
  • they have not had any symptoms for the past 24 hours; and
  • it has been at least 7 days since they first started getting symptoms; and
  • they have had at least 2 negative coronavirus tests collected 24 hours apart after they stopped showing symptoms

You will only need another COVID-19 test if you are still showing symptoms.

It is recommended that you go back to your GP or clinic 7 days after your isolation has finished for a medical check-up to make sure all of your symptoms are clear. Your GP or clinic may also collect a blood sample from you, but this is for storage and possible future testing.

When can I be released from hospital isolation?

If you are a confirmed COVID-19 case with severe illness — but you are ready to be discharged from hospital — and you have not had 2 consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 48 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:

  • it has been at least 10 days since you left the hospital; and
  • you have not had any symptoms for the past 72 hours (3 days)

You will only need another COVID-19 test if you are still showing symptoms.

It is recommended that you go back to your GP or clinic 7 days after your isolation has finished for a medical check-up to make sure all your symptoms are clear. Your GP or clinic may also collect a blood sample from you, but this is for storage and possible future testing.

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 the tissue immediately, or cough into your elbow; and keep at least 1.5 metres (2 arm 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 can 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.

A majority of people who need to quarantine because they have been travelling will not go on to develop symptoms.

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

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

Workplaces are encouraged to accept leave requests, without requiring medical clearance, for employees who need to self-isolate 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) 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: October 2020


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