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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions


What is coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections. This can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by a new coronavirus that originated in Hubei Province, China.

Find out more about COVID-19 on the Australian Government FAQ page.

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Are COVID-19 symptoms the same as the flu?

COVID-19 is a virus like the flu, but they are different kinds of virus.

COVID -19 and flu share some very similar symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, runny nose and muscle aches.

Some key differences:

  • There is a vaccine against the flu, but vaccine is not yet available for COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 does have a higher person-to-person transmission rate, meaning it spreads more easily than the flu.
  • COVID-19 is a new virus, so we don’t have any herd immunity to it and everyone may be susceptible to infection.

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Who is most at risk?

People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19.

However, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or people with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Make sure any chronic conditions are managed or under control so you are as healthy as possible. Talk to your GP about how you can do this.

You can also take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19. For example, by practicing social distancing, staying away from people who have respiratory infections, practicing good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes and wiping down surfaces – remember wash, wipe, cover – don’t infect another.

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How many confirmed and suspected cases are there in South Australia?

See the Confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 in South Australia page for latest information.

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Are pregnant women at greater risk?

There is currently no scientific published evidence that pregnant women are more at risk.

However, pregnant women should engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection, like avoiding people who are sick with infectious illnesses, avoid touching of the face, mouth, nose and eyes with unclean hands and. practicing good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes and wiping down surfaces.

No current evidence of virus has been found in the breast milk of women with COVID-19. No information is available on the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through breast milk (i.e., whether infectious virus is present in the breast milk of an infected woman).

Any infection during pregnancy is a potential risk and pregnant women should be careful and speak to their GP for advice.

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Will COVID-19 affect my pregnancy?

As COVID-19 is a new illness there is little detailed information about the impact of the virus on pregnant women and their babies.

Experience with other viruses in this family suggests that while pregnant women may develop severe respiratory symptoms, pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop COVID-19 infection than others in the general population. In fact, the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu type symptoms.

For more information read our Frequently Asked Questions for Maternity Patients (PDF 395KB).

Are children at greater risk?

Young children do not seem to be getting COVID-19 as much as other age groups.

We are not sure why this is yet, but if your child has any medical conditions and they are unwell, it is best to have them checked by your GP as soon as possible.

Also, make sure your children are up to date with their vaccinations. The healthier they are, the better they can fight off new diseases like COVID-19.

Make sure your children practice good hygiene (washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes). People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19.

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Is it safe to go out in public?

It is safe to go out into the community if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

It is important for everyone to continue to follow the Australian Government advice around social distancing, handwashing, coughing and sneezing into tissues or elbows, wiping down surfaces and staying at home if you are sick.

If you are worried, keep a distance of 1.5 metres away from sick people when out and about in public spaces.

This also means not holding any unnecessary meetings or events, working from home where possible, not shaking hands, hugging, kissing and touching people unnecessarily or sharing food and drinks.

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What is social distancing?

Social distancing means avoiding close contact and crowded places whenever you can and aiming to keep approximately 1.5 metres distance from those around you in the community, in the workplace and at home.

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What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, as someone who has tested positive for the COVID-19 when that person was infectious.

Close contacts are advised by public health officials of the need to self-isolate.

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How does it spread?

COVID-19 is mostly likely spread through:

  • direct close contact with a person while they are infectious (usually face to face contact for at least 15 minutes; or being in the same closed space for at least 2 hours
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

COVID-19 may also spread through:

  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables, mobile phones, stair rails, elevator buttons) that have droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person, and then touching your mouth, nose, eyes or face.

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Is it safe to go to a hospital where a COVID-19 case has been?

Yes. Hospitals maintain high infection control standards. South Australian hospitals and clinicians are well trained in caring for people with infectious diseases, and in preventing their transmission to other patients.

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Can COVID-19 survive for long on surfaces?

Studies suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 may survive on surfaces for a few hours or in rarer cases up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

It can be spread by touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.

To avoid spreading the virus on objects and surfaces:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol based hand sanitiser
  • use a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant or detergent.

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What do I do if I am feeling unwell?

If you are severely unwell, such as having difficulty breathing, call 000 (Triple Zero).

If you have travelled overseas in the past 14 days and have COVID-19 symptoms, contact your GP (advise your GP of your travel history and symptoms) and isolate yourself.

People who are unable to get an appointment with their GP and meet the following criteria can visit one of the COVID-19 clinics.

Please only present for testing if:

  •  You have travelled overseas in the past 14 days AND have symptoms.
  • You have travelled interstate in the past 7 days AND have new symptoms.
  • You have been in contact with a confirmed case AND have symptoms.
  • You are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact AND have a fever (≥37.5) AND an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough, sore throat).​

If you have NOT travelled overseas recently, but are feeling unwell, visit your usual health care provider. Avoid contact with others if you are unwell.

Not sure what to do?


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If I have other medical conditions, will COVID-19 make me sicker than other people?

If you have chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes you may be at higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19.

The best thing you can do is to visit your GP and make sure you are managing your health conditions. The healthier you are, the better you can fight off new viruses like COVID-19.

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Are smokers at the same risk of COVID-19 of everyone else?

If you are a smoker, the lining of your lungs is more vulnerable and producing more of the receptors which the COVID-19 virus latches onto. Quit now. Support is available. Visit Be Smoke Free for more information.

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Will a facemask protect me?

Masks are not required by healthy members of the community.

They are effective when worn by someone with a case of COVID-19 as this can help with preventing the sick person spreading their infection to others.

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Will antibiotics protect me from COVID-19?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses. COVID-19 is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

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Will using herbs or oils, eating garlic, gargling mouthwash, yoga or rinsing my nose with saline prevent me from getting COVID-19?

While some people use these things for their general health, they will not protect you against COVID-19.

Currently there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat COVID-19 – however doctors are investigating options and providing supportive care.

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Are there vaccines and medicines to stop COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Research and development for a COVID-19 vaccine is occurring in multiple countries, but this will take some time to make sure it is safe.

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Will the flu vaccines protect me from COVID-19?

The 2020 flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.

However, it will reduce the likelihood of you becoming seriously ill from the flu, so you should get your annual flu shot – usually around April each year.

It is likely people who get both COVID-19 and flu at the same time will be sicker that if they just have COVID-19, therefore, the flu vaccine is especially important this year.

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What is the survival rate of COVID-19?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the world case mortality rate (death rate) of COVID-19 as 3-4%.

However, in many countries, only people with severe illness have been tested, so it is likely that death rate is lower than this estimate.

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Can I get COVID-19 from having sex?

No. COVID-19 is not a sexually transmissible disease. However, you can get COVID-19 from being in close contact with someone who is infectious with COVID-19.

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Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet and other animals?

At present, there is no verified evidence that companion animals or pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with COVID-19. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.

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Can I take my dog or pet for a walk if I’m in quarantine/isolation?

No. You can only leave your home if you need to seek medical care.

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Can I get COVID-19 from Australian bats?

At this stage, there is no evidence that bats (or any other animals) carry the COVID-19 virus in Australia.

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Can I catch COVID-19 from mosquitos?

There is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is transmitted through mosquito bites.

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Can I catch COVID-19 from money, cash and bank cards?

It is very unlikely you can get COVID-19 from money, cash or bank cards. However, make sure you follow proper hand hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitisers after handling money. Try using “tap and go” or “phone pay” options where possible.

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Is it safe to receive parcels or regular mail from China and other high risk countries?

Yes, it is safe to receive packages and regular mail. You are not at risk of contracting COVID-19.

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If I am overseas or interstate, what do I need to do when I return to South Australia?

All travellers coming to South Australia from interstate or overseas are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

This is an enforceable obligation applicable from 4pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020.

This advice is the same for those flying to Australia or on cruise ships coming to Australia.

The Australian Government is seeking to assist Australians to come home by ensuring that the flights continue to run, but when they arrive, people will need to spend 14 days in self isolation.

As at 15 March 2020, the Australian government has banned cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports for 30 days. Any Australian returning on a cruise ship will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

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Do I need to self-isolate if someone in my house has travelled overseas or interstate and is self-isolating?

If you are living with someone who is self-isolating, you should avoid contact with this person and you should both follow the self-isolation advice on the SA Health website. You should also monitor yourself and other people in the household for symptoms and contact your GP if you become unwell.

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Should I cancel my travel plans?

All non-essential travel should be avoided. We all need to be socially responsible to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

See our Travel Restrictions in South Australia page for more information about interstate and international travel restrictions.

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Do I need to use antibacterial soap or hand sanitiser to clean my hands?

Washing your hands regularly is one of your best defences. Regular soap will protect you if you wash your hands properly. Washing with soap removes the fat that sits around the virus particles and will destroy it.

Alcohol-based sanitiser is also a good alternative when hand washing is not possible.

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I am feeling unwell, what should I do?

If you are severely unwell, such as having difficulty breathing, call 000 (Triple Zero).

If you have travelled overseas in the past 14 days and have COVID-19 symptoms, contact your GP (advise your GP of your travel history and symptoms) and isolate yourself.

People who are unable to get an appointment with their GP and meet the following criteria can visit one of the COVID-19 clinics.

Please only present for testing if:

  •  You have travelled overseas in the past 14 days AND have symptoms.
  • You have travelled interstate in the past 7 days AND have new symptoms.
  • You have been in contact with a confirmed case AND have symptoms.
  • You are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact AND have a fever (≥38) AND an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough, sore throat).​

If you have NOT travelled overseas recently, but are feeling unwell, visit your usual health care provider. Avoid contact with others if you are unwell.

Not sure what to do?

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Where can I find information about schools?

For latest information on schools, please see the Department for Education website.


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How can I get my medication if I can’t get a prescription?

If you have not been able to access medical services or get to the doctor to receive your usual prescription and have an immediate need, you should contact your pharmacist (or a local pharmacy) about getting your essential medicines from the pharmacy without a prescription.

Your pharmacist will be able to provide most medicines available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) or the smallest standard pack of drugs not on the PBS.

Find out more in the Consumer factsheet on Emergency supply of essential medicines and the Coronavirus (PDF 161KB).

The Emergency Supply provision does not apply to certain medicines and a prescription is required for these including:

  • Schedule 8 drugs (S8) including opioids, some benzodiazepines and stimulants
  • Drugs that are restricted to prescribing by relevant specialist medical practitioners only including:
    • The above categories include medicines such as certain fertility and cancer drugs and hydroxychloroquine.

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How can I get my medicines if I’m in quarantine, self-isolating or staying at home?

Contact your doctor and/or pharmacy to discuss the options available, and to set up a plan that works best for you. You can use searches such as Google to locate your closest doctor or pharmacy if you are away from home.

Options to have your prescriptions sent to the pharmacy:

  • Talk to your doctor about sending any new prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.
  • Your pharmacy may already have your repeat prescriptions on file.
  • Ask someone to assist – for example a family member, friend or neighbour can take your prescriptions to the pharmacy for you.
  • Post your prescriptions to the pharmacy or drop them off via a secure and contactless method (i.e. secure letterbox).

Collecting your medicines:

  • Home delivery – talk to the pharmacy about delivery to your home or where you are staying; delivery may be made by a pharmacy staff member, Australia Post mail, couriers, or taxi services.
  • Ask someone to assist – a family member, friend or neighbour may collect your medicines from the pharmacy.
    If you would like more information about how to get your medicines from a pharmacy, please visit the Frequently asked questions about pharmacies and accessing medicines (PDF 138KB).

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Where can I find reliable sources of information?

SA Health Webpage

SA Health Facebook

SA Health Twitter

Australian Government

healthdirect Australia

Smartraveller

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