Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

COVID-19 isolation and recovery

9-minute read

If you develop symptoms such as severe shortness of breath or chest pain, call triple zero (000) immediately. Tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival if you have COVID-19.

Quick read and other languages

Find out when you can expect to recover from COVID-19 and return to normal activities. Also available in 15 languages.

How do I isolate when I have COVID-19?

Isolation means staying at your home or accommodation and remaining separated from others. Isolation is no longer mandatory if you have COVID-19; however, it is strongly recommended that you stay at home until your acute symptoms have gone. Acute symptoms include a fever, sore throat, runny nose and cough.

If you have COVID-19, you should not go to work, school, childcare or university. If possible, you should not travel on public transport, in taxis and ride-share vehicles and not attend gatherings or any crowded indoor spaces.

Separate yourself from other members of your household as much as possible. This includes staying in a separate, well-ventilated room, sleeping alone and using a separate bathroom if one is available.

If you cannot isolate in a separate room, avoid shared spaces, such as the kitchen, as much as possible. Do not share household items and wash these items thoroughly after using them.

Wear a mask when moving through shared areas. Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

Continue to attend any routine medical appointments, tests or procedures that you normally have, but be sure to tell your healthcare provider before attending that you have COVID-19. You might be able to arrange a telehealth appointment in some cases.

Do not visit people at high risk of severe illness or anyone in hospital or at an aged-care centre or disability-care centre for at least 7 days and until your symptoms have gone. If you work in a high-risk place, you may have to stay away from your workplace for longer.

If your symptoms worsen or you're concerned, contact your doctor. If your symptoms become severe, call triple zero (000), or go to a hospital emergency department.

Learn more about caring for someone with COVID-19.

How long does COVID-19 last? When will I recover?

The COVID-19 infection period varies from person to person. Most people with COVID-19 will have a mild illness and will recover in a few days.

Generally, people with COVID-19 are considered infectious from 48 hours before symptoms start. In high-risk settings, they may be considered infectious from 72 hours before symptoms start.

Symptoms in children and babies are milder than those in adults, and some infected kids may not show any signs of being unwell.

People who experience more serious illness may take weeks to recover. Symptoms may continue for several weeks after infection. Some people may develop long-term health problems caused by COVID-19.

Can I go shopping if I have COVID-19?

If you have COVID-19, it's highly recommended that you remain isolated until your symptoms have resolved. Where possible, ask friends, family or neighbours to get essential supplies for you. They should drop items at your door, and not enter your accommodation.

If you don't have family, friends or neighbours to get you essential supplies, consider buying groceries online or contacting your state or territory government for assistance.

Learn more about getting food, medicine and other essentials while you're isolating.

Do I need a medical certificate or negative test result to return to work after isolating?

You don't need a medical certificate as evidence that you no longer have COVID-19, and your employer should not ask you to be tested to return to work.

For more information, read safe work Australia's COVID-19 information for workplaces guideline.

When can I start exercising again?

Exercise plays an important role in COVID-19 recovery. If you're recovering from moderate or severe illness you should speak with your healthcare provider before returning to exercise.

Ongoing symptoms like fatigue may get worse after you exercise. This can be known as "crashing" or "relapse". This is described in scientific terms as "post-exertional malaise" or PEM for short.

People with PEM typically feel worse for hours or days after doing something active or mental.

Recovery normally takes 24 hours or longer. PEM can affect your energy levels, concentration, sleep and memory. It can cause muscle and joint pain, and flu-like symptoms.

Introduce exercise into your weekly plans slowly and carefully. Start with 15 minutes of light activity and see how you feel. This can include going for a walk or a bike ride. Pay attention to your heart rate and breathing as you exercise. Over time, you can slowly introduce longer and harder workouts.

If you have any of the following symptoms, stop exercising immediately and contact your healthcare provider:

  • unexpected breathlessness
  • chest pain or palpitations. If you experience severe central crushing chest pain lasting more than 10 minutes call 000
  • signs of blood clotting, such as swollen calves

How long should I wait to have elective surgery after having COVID-19?

If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, you shouldn't have elective surgery unless postponing the procedure creates a greater risk to your life.

Your procedure should be delayed until you're no longer infectious and you have recovered from COVID-19.

Speak to your treating doctor about your circumstances.

What should I do if I test positive again?

It is possible to get COVID-19 again after your recovery. If you get new COVID-19 symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, you should get tested again, regardless of whether you have had contact with a confirmed case. You should stay at home until you are well.

Sometimes, people can get a positive COVID-19 test result even though they no longer have COVID-19. This is because people with COVID-19 have infected cells in their body that release the virus into the environment through breathing, sneezing or coughing, or through their faeces and urine. This is called 'viral shedding'.

After recovering from COVID-19, some people can have non-infectious fragments of the virus left in their bodies for some time.

Do I need the vaccine if I'm recovering from COVID-19 or had COVID-19 in the past?

COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for people who've had COVID-19. If you've had a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection, you should delay COVID-19 vaccination for 6 months after recovering.

A longer gap between infection and vaccination is likely to lead to a better immune response and result in longer protection from reinfection. People with a past COVID-19 infection should receive all available doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

You may be vaccinated earlier than the recommended 6-month interval if you:

  • are significantly immunocompromised and may be at greater risk of getting COVID-19 again
  • are starting an immunosuppressant
  • have a job that requires you to be vaccinated
  • have a job that puts you at greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19
  • about to overseas travel overseas
  • cannot reschedule vaccination easily

There are no safety concerns with having a COVID-19 vaccine dose within 6 months of having an undetected COVID-19 infection. Serological testing or other testing to detect current or previous infection with COVID-19 before vaccination is neither necessary nor recommended before vaccination.

However, you should not be vaccinated until you've recovered from the acute illness.

People with prolonged symptoms from COVID-19 beyond 3 months should be vaccinated on a case-by-case basis. Speak to your healthcare provider.

A healthcare professional can consult with a specialist immunisation service for additional advice if needed.

BOOK YOUR VACCINATION — Use the Service Finder to book a COVID-19 vaccination.

Related topics

COVID-19 symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms

Learn to recognise mild, moderate and severe symptoms of COVID-19, and when to seek medical advice from your GP or another healthcare professional.

Long COVID and post-COVID symptoms

Long COVID and post-COVID symptoms

While most people fully recover from having COVID-19, others have found it can take longer to get back to normal. Read more about post-COVID symptoms and 'long COVID' here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Coping with social isolation

Due to COVID-19, most of us are either social distancing, self-isolating, or self-quarantining

Read more on MindSpot Clinic website

Resources for Self-Isolation or Quarantine - How to Cope

A range of resources for people in Self-Isolation or Quarantine including self-care, staying active and activity planning.

Read more on This Way Up website

What would happen if I was told to self-isolate? -

There's a difference between self-isolation and being quarantined because you are infected yourself.

Read more on myDr website

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment - Services Australia

This was a support payment if you or someone you’re caring for had to self-isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

Read more on Centrelink website

Self isolation and COVID-19 | 1800RESPECT

Self isolation and increased stress during COVID-19 will likely see an increase in domestic violence incidents. There are a number of things you can do to try and keep safe.

Read more on 1800RESPECT website

COVID-19 & isolation: talking with kids | Raising Children Network

Help children cope with COVID-19, physical distancing and self-isolation by talking. Kids need good information, plus opportunities to talk about feelings.

Read more on website

COVID-19 vaccination program | SA Health

About COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination programs to protect yourself and others and help stop the spread of coronavirus in South Australia.

Read more on SA Health website

COVID-19 | SA Health

Health information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for South Australians. Find COVID-19 testing clinics and read the latest health updates and advice on COVID-19.

Read more on SA Health website

Managing your COVID-19 symptoms at home | SA Health

It is important to monitor your symptoms while isolating at home. Learn about mild to moderate, worsening and severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Read more on SA Health website

Pregnancy, parenting, and COVID-19

Information for pregnant women and parents on how to keep you and your family safe from COVID-19.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.