Current information from the Department of Health (as of 6th August 2020)

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases, including Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

On 11th March 2020 COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic by WHO. [i] 


Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. The main symptoms include: [ii]

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

To stop the spread of COVID-19 people with even mild symptoms of respiratory infection should get tested.

How it spreads

The virus can spread from person to person through:

  • close contact with an infectious person (including in the 48 hours before they had symptoms)
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face

COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community. This means that COVID-19 could spread widely and quickly.

See how to protect yourself and others.

Who is most at risk

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are:

  • travellers who have recently been overseas
  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings

People who are, or are more likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they get the virus are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • people 70 years and older
  • people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems
  • people in aged care facilities
  • people with a disability


If your patient needs to get tested, they can:

  • attend a free COVID-19 respiratory clinic
  • contact their doctor and they will arrange the test, which may attract a fee

COVID-19 respiratory clinics are dedicated health centres located around the country, focusing on testing people with symptoms of respiratory infection.

Find the COVID-19 respiratory clinic nearest to you.

Testing is important for anyone with symptoms and particularly if any of the following apply to your patient:

  • they have returned from overseas in the past 14 days
  • they travelled on a cruise ship (either passenger or crew) in the 14 days before developing symptoms
  • they have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • they are a health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact
  • they have lived in or travelled through an area where there is a higher risk of community transmission, as defined by the local public health unit

People in high-risk settings will be regularly monitored to ensure symptoms are identified early. Rapid response plans will be activated if someone in those settings develops a fever or respiratory symptoms. People who have recovered from COVID-19 need to be tested before they can go into high risk settings.

High-risk settings include:

  • aged and residential care facilities
  • detention centres or correctional facilities
  • boarding schools
  • military group residences and other closed settings, such as Navy ships or live-in accommodation
  • rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

After Testing

It may take a day or two for test results to come back.

If the patient has serious symptoms, they will be kept in hospital and isolated from other patients to prevent the virus from spreading.

If the doctor says they are well enough to go home while they wait for their test results, they should:


Coronavirus Quick Links

Australian Government Department of Health

World Health Organisation


State/Territory Departments of Health

Collection procedures, pathology testing and notification requirements are specific to each jurisdiction.

Access local information via the links below: