Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

What we know about COVID-19

The current COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. We are still learning about how this new virus spreads and the disease it causes. We know:

  • the virus causes respiratory disease that can spread from person to person
  • most people experience mild flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat and fatigue
  • some people experience severe illness and, sadly, a small proportion die
  • older people and people with underlying medical conditions seem to be more at risk of severe illness
  • there is no treatment for COVID-19, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms. Antibiotics do not work on viruses
  • vaccine is currently not available.

How does it spread?

The virus most likely spreads through:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze (if you are within a metre or very large step of an infected person)
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs, sink taps and tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people recover easily, others may get very sick very quickly. Symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue, or shortness of breath. People with severe illness may have difficulty breathing, which is a sign of pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to show after a person has been infected.

Who is most at risk?

Almost everyone in Australia with COVID-19 has had recent international travel or contact with a person known to have the virus.

At the moment it seems the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and people with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer or kidney failure, may be at higher risk of severe illness.

How can I help prevent the spread of disease?

Personal hygiene is an important protection against COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses. You can help slow the spread of illness by:

  • washing your hands often with soap and warm, running water (or alcohol-base hand rub), especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • using a tissue (or flexed elbow if a tissue is not readily available) to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, then putting the tissue in the rubbish
  • staying at home if you are sick, unless you are told to see a doctor
  • keeping a large step from others if you can, when you are out in public
  • wearing a facemask if you are unwell, to protect others
  • knowing the signs of illness.

When should I wash my hands?

  • before touching your face, especially your mouth, lips, nose, eyes
  • before eating, drinking, preparing food/drinks
  • after going to the toilet
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing nose.

Do I need a facemask?

If you are well, you do not need to wear a facemask to protect yourself from COVID-19. Facemasks are generally for people who are suspected or known to have the virus and people directly caring for them.

There is no reason to wear a facemask for protection against COVID-19 unless you are in close contact (within a metre) with someone suspected or known to be infected. This is normally only healthcare workers and carers.

People who are sick with COVID-19 should wear a facemask (if they can) when they need to leave home quarantine, for example when they get tested or go to see a doctor.

What does social distancing mean?

Social distancing means less contact between you and other people. It is important to exercise social distancing because COVID-19 is most likely to spread by close contact with an infected person, or by contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. So, the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

For more information please view the Guide to social distancing

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you think you might have COVID-19 because of recent travel or contact with a confirmed case, phone your GP or the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

If you are feeling unwell, but haven’t travelled or had contact with a confirmed case, phone your doctor or healthdirect Australia (1800 022 222) for advice. Protect others around you by washing your hands and keeping your distance. If seeing your GP, you MUST call ahead and mention your symptoms and any travel details.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance and tell the operator your recent travel history.

I’m sick but haven’t travelled or had contact with a confirmed case.

While COVID-19 is causing a lot of concern, it is important to remember that most people in Australia who are unwell are suffering from the usual viruses in our community. At the moment, almost all cases in Australia have had recent international travel or had contact with a person known to have COVID-19. So, it is very unlikely that you have COVID-19.

See your GP if you feel you need to, or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. If you suddenly get a lot worse and are worried, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

Who is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who:

  • spends at least 15 minutes in face-to-face contact with someone who has had a positive test result; or
  • spends more than 2 hours in an enclosed room with someone who has had a positive test result.

Any other contact is deemed low risk.

I’ve been told I’m a casual contact of a confirmed case

As a casual contact, the risk of you being infected is low. As a casual contact, you do not need to stay home from work or school while you are well, unless you work with people who are vulnerable to severe illness from this virus.

Look out the signs of illness especially fever or a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath. If you start feeling unwell with these symptoms within 14 days of your casual contact with a confirmed case, phone your GP or the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

What does ‘quarantine’ mean?

If you have been told you need to quarantine, you must stay at home or in your accommodation and not attend public places, including work, school, supermarkets, childcare or public areas of university, higher education and vocational education campuses. Only people you usually live with should stay in the home or accommodation. Do not see visitors. Where possible, get others such as friends or family, who are not required to be quarantined, to get food or other necessities.

If you must leave home to access important, arranged medical care, you should wear a surgical mask if you have one. For more information, see the ‘'Home isolation and care resources' on the Australian Government Department of Health website.

You must remain quarantined either in your home or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities

Who needs to quarantine?

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, you must quarantine at home or in your accommodation if you:

  1. Have arrived in Tasmania on or after 21 March 2020
  2. Have arrived from overseas on or after 16 March 2020
  3. Have been in ‘close contact’ with a confirmed case
  4. Develop fever OR acute respiratory infection (eg shortness of breath, cough, sore throat) within 14 days of returning from anywhere overseas.  If you are sick call your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

I have arrived into Tasmania, what do I need to know?

All travellers arriving in to Tasmania must complete a Tasmanian Arrivals Form and quarantine for 14 days.

If you are an Essential Traveller (as listed on the Tasmanian Arrivals Form) then you will need to comply with the Quarantine conditions for Essential Travellers. You may also be considered an Essential Traveller based on compassionate or medical grounds, or if your work is identified as essential by the Secretary of Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. See the DPIPWE website for the Tasmanian Arrivals Form and Essential Traveller Status Forms.

Find out more about Tasmanian border restrictions

Why do I have to quarantine myself for 14 days?

If you have been told to quarantine, it is because you might become unwell with COVID-19. It can take up to 14 days for people who have been infected with the virus to become sick, and it’s possible to spread the virus to others 24 hours before you feel sick.

Quarantining yourself is very important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Tasmania. If you have been told to quarantine at home, you must do so. Breaching the quarantine process may incur a penalty of up to $16,800.

You should monitor your health during this time, and call your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 if you begin to feel unwell.

For more information please view Quarantine Requirements

I’m in quarantine at home and need to get some groceries/go to the chemist

It is very important that you don’t leave your home while you’re in home quarantine. If possible, ask a neighbour, family member or friend to help you, or do an online order from your supermarket, with home delivery.

What should I do if I become unwell after leaving quarantine?

People who have been required to be in home quarantine and have completed their 14 day period without showing signs or symptoms of being unwell, are permitted to return to their daily activities including going to work, school, university, attending public places and using public transport.

While COVID-19 is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and tiredness are much more likely to be suffering from a cold or other respiratory illness – not COVID-19.

However, as a precaution, if you do develop these symptoms soon after leaving quarantine, you are encouraged to see your usual doctor. Your doctor will be able to advise you on what steps you should take to get better and may test you for a number of respiratory infections including COVID-19, if medically necessary.

I live with someone who’s in home quarantine. Do I need to quarantine too?

You don’t need to stay in home quarantine unless the person in home quarantine who you live with gets sick and becomes a confirmed case. Then you will need to quarantine for 14 days. If you don’t get sick in that time, you’ll be free to leave home quarantine.

I live with someone who’s in home quarantine and I’m at risk of severe illness (underlying health condition like heart disease / cancer, or elderly) How can I protect myself?

People can spread the virus to others up to 24 hours before they show signs of being sick, so it’s important to protect yourself.

If you have an option of living elsewhere while the person is in quarantine, that would be wise.


  • Try to keep your distance from the person in home quarantine. Stay in separate rooms if you can and use separate bathrooms.
  • If you need to share a bathroom, keep toothbrushes and face washers / towels separate.
  • Don’t share drinks or food.
  • Wash your hands after touching crockery or cutlery used by the person in home quarantine.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before touching your face and preparing food/drinks or eating.

Where can I be tested for COVID-19?

Testing for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is only available at a few places in Tasmania. Your GP or the Public Health Hotline (1800 671 738) will tell you where you need to go. You’ll need to book an appointment to have the test done.

The Department of Health fact sheet I’m being tested. What do I need to know? has more information about the process for testing for COVID-19.

Coronavirus respiratory clinics

Four respiratory clinics have been opened in Tasmania to help meet the demand for COVID-19 testing. The clinics are located in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Latrobe.

These clinics are not open for walk-up testing. Anyone who thinks they may need testing should first contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738. Your GP can also refer you to the clinic, as long as they have assessed you as a patient and determined that you require testing. If seeing your GP, you MUST call ahead and mention your symptoms and any travel details.

After being referred to the clinic, patients will be assessed and tested by a nurse. You must then return home to quarantine until they have been told their test result. Results will usually be available within 24 hours.

I’m waiting for test results, when will I get them?

The Public Health Hotline response team or your GP will call you when your results are available. It usually takes 1-2 days.

I’ve had a negative test result but I’m getting worse

See your GP or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. If you are severely unwell, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

I want to be tested even though I’m not sick

The national approach is only to test people who are unwell and have recently travelled overseas or been in contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19. There is no value in testing people who are not sick.

Coronavirus homepage

updated 24 March 2020 1:19 pm