What are the symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019)?1,2
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other colds and flus and include:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
While COVID-19 is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying these symptoms are likely suffering from a cold or other respiratory illness – not just COVID-19.
What do I do if I develop symptoms?1,3
If you develop symptoms within 14 days of arriving from overseas or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, you should telephone your doctor for urgent assessment. Your doctor can advise if they need to see you in person or not.
You should tell them your travel history or that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. You must remain isolated either in your home, hotel or a health care setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.
Should I be tested for COVID-19?1,3
Your doctor will tell you if you should be tested. They will arrange for the test. You will only be tested if your doctor decides you meet the current criteria (which may change with updated advice):
- You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever
- You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause
- You are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever
If you meet any of these criteria, your doctor can request to test you for COVID-19. It is important to remember that many people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 will not have the virus. Only suspected cases are tested to ensure labs are able to cope with the demand. There is no need to test people who feel well and do not meet the criteria above.
What does isolate in your home mean?3
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people. You might also be asked to stay at home if you have been exposed to the virus or been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.
Staying at home means you:
- Do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
- Ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
- Do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
- You do not need to wear a mask in your home. If you need to go out to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others.
- You should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends.
Should I wear a face mask?3
You do not need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like COVID-19.
How is COVID-19 treated?1
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Researchers worldwide are studying in how to treat COVID-19. The virus affects people in different ways, depending on their health, or existing illness, or history of serious conditions. Medical professionals and scientists are still learning more on the characteristics of this virus and the symptoms they cause. If you have COVID-19 and experience:
Mild illness – you can rest at home until you recover. People with mild symptoms seem to improve after about 2 weeks, but it's not the same for everyone
Severe illness – you might need to contact your doctor. If you develop serious symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, call 000 (for Australia) or 111 (for New Zealand) for urgent medical help. If you need to be treated at the hospital, you will most likely be in a special "isolation" room. Only medical staff will be allowed in the room, and they will have to wear special gowns, gloves, masks, and eye protection. Extra oxygen might be used to help you breathe easily, and some patients will be put on a ventilator.
Can COVID-19 be prevented?1
There is not yet a vaccine for prevention of COVID-19. However, you can do some things to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19. These steps are appropriate as the infection spreads rapidly. People aged 65 years or older or who have other health issues are particularly vulnerable. To help reduce the spread of infection:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often. This is especially important after being in public and touching other people or surfaces. Make sure to rub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, cleaning your wrists, fingernails, and in between your fingers. Then rinse your hands and dry them with a paper towel and dispose of them immediately.
- If you are not near a sink, you can use hand sanitisers to clean your hands. The best hand sanitisers contain at least 60 percent alcohol. But it is always more ideal to wash with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face with your hands, especially your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Try to stay away from people who have any symptoms of the infection.
- Avoid crowds. If you live in an area where there have been cases of COVID-19, try to stay home as much as you can.
- Keep social distance, at least 1.5m from other people (2 arms’ length). Cancel or postpone events and do not attend gatherings.
- Avoid traveling until further notice.
- Keep the sick person away from others. The sick person should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom if possible. They should also eat in their own room.
What should I do if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in my area?1,3
To help slow the spread of disease, it's important to follow any official instructions in your area about limiting contact with other people. Even if there are no cases of COVID-19 where you live, that may change in the future.
If there is an outbreak in your area, schools or businesses will likely close temporarily, and many events will be cancelled. If this happens, or if someone in your family gets sick with COVID-19, you will need to stay at home for some time. There are things you can do to prepare for this. For example, you might be able to ask your employer if you can work from home, or take time off, if it becomes necessary. You can also make sure you have a way to get in touch with relatives, neighbors, and others in your area. This way you will be able to receive and share information easily.
Rules and guidelines might be different in different areas. If officials do tell people in your area to stay home or avoid gathering with other people, it's important to take this seriously and follow instructions as best you can. Even if you are not at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you could still pass it along to others. Keeping people away from each other is one of the best ways to control the spread of the virus.
What can I do to cope with stress and anxiety?1
This pandemic has caused much uncertainty and it is normal to feel anxious or worried. Take some of these recommendations to reduce the anxiety and stress levels :
- Have a break time from the news
- Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods
- Do the activities that you enjoy in your home
- Make sure to keep in touch with your friends and family members
- If you already have a faith, keep engaging in spiritual activities in prayer and meditation
With the current understanding, most cases do not lead to illness or death from COVID-19., except for those who are at risk due to predisposing conditions and older age. You don’t need to panic. You can prepare yourself by taking the precautions to do what you can to lower your risk and help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Where can I go to learn more?
There are several official resources available to provide you with more information:
COVID-19 resources and health alerts from the Australian Government Department of Health
Australia National Coronavirus Helpline: Call 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For New Zealand:
COVID-19 health alerts and resources from the New Zealand Ministry of Health:
New Zealand Healthline: 0800 358 5453
World Health Organization latest updates
1. Editors UT. Patient education: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) overview (The Basics) - UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/126678. Accessed March 17, 2020.
2. Health NZM of. COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public | Ministry of Health NZ. Ministry of Health, Manatu Hauora. https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-health-advice-general-public. Published 2020. Accessed March 17, 2020.
3. Australian Government Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19) – frequently asked questions | Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions. Accessed March 17, 2020.