COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. What is a coronavirus and COVID-19?

A. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause respiratory infections. These can range from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This new coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease caused by the virus is named COVID-19.


Q. How is this coronavirus spread?

A. COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:

·         close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared

·         close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes

·         touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.


Q. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other colds and flus and include:

·      fever

·       sore throat

·       cough

·      tiredness

·       difficulty breathing.

While coronavirus is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying these symptoms are likely suffering with a cold or other respiratory illness – not coronavirus.

Q. What do I do if I develop symptoms?

A. If you develop symptoms within 14 days of arriving in Australia or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, you should arrange to see your doctor for urgent assessment.

You should telephone the health clinic or hospital before you arrive and tell them your travel history or that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus. 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.

Q. Should I be tested for COVID-19?

A. 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 criteria:

·         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 you are tested 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 our 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.

Q. Someone I live with is getting tested for COVID-19. Should I self-isolate and get tested as well?

A. If a household member is a suspected case, you may need to be isolated. This will be determined by your public health unit on a case-by-case basis. Your public health unit will contact you if you need to isolate. For more information, read our fact sheet on home isolation.

Q. What does isolate in your home mean?

A. 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 may have been exposed to the virus.

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 on-line with your family and friends.

Q. How is the virus treated?

A. There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Most of the symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care.

Q. Should I wear a face mask?

A. 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 coronavirus.

Q. How can we help prevent the spread of coronavirus?

A. Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping your distance from others when you are sick is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

·         wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet

·         cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer

·         if unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people)

·         exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.

Q. What do I do if I know COVID-19 guidelines are being breached in my community?

A. You can ring the DHHS Hotline on 1800 675 398 and press 4 to report alleged breach of Chief Health Officer directions.

Q. How can my community best clean their home/business/workplace?

A. You can download a factsheet about environmental cleaning to prevent the spread of COVID 19 here:

Q. How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

A. It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. (World Health Organisation).

Q. What sort of help is available for people who need support?

A. We can provide you with a key contact list of local providers of a range of support. Our communities have a range of local initiatives to support their own communities and these are regularly linked into Council’s Community Connector Team.  From there, community need is elevated through Council’s regional and state networks.

There are a range of fact sheets here on the Federal Government support:

Q. How will we find out if someone in our community has coronavirus?

A. We should be taking precautions and treating our community as if we already have known cases, think about how you can help prepare your community for the news of the first case. The Department of Health and Human Services follows up and monitors all close contacts of confirmed cases and provides them with information and support. All close contacts must self-isolate for 14-days. All people arriving from any international destination must also self-isolate for 14 days as per Commonwealth Government direction.

Q. How do we know people who have had coronavirus are no longer infectious?

A. People with a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection stay in quarantine until they are no longer experiencing symptoms of coronavirus infection.

Before they are released from quarantine, their doctor or specialist care team assesses they are no longer infectious.

Once they are discharged they have a follow up assessment by the medical team to make sure they remain well.

Q. Does everyone arriving from overseas have to self-quarantine?

A. Yes. If you arrive at an airport in Victoria on a flight that originates from somewhere outside Australia, or travel on a connecting flight from another flight that originates outside Australia, you must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Q. Who makes sure this self-quarantining is happening?

A. Victoria Police follow up people who should be in self quarantine after overseas travel with spot checks. If you have concerns about alleged breaches of these guidelines, call the Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

Q. How can I help my community feel ok about this situation?

A. We are all uncertain and vulnerable at the moment as we are living through a situation we have never faced before. There are lots of great tips out there on how to look after your mental health and get the help you need.

It is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed during a time like this. It’s important to remind yourself that this is a normal reaction and it will pass.

There are plenty of ways to support other people, or be supported if you are feeling anxious or uncertain.

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

A crisis support service offering short term support at any time for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

A free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years.

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Mental health information and support for all Victorians

Eheadspace 1800 650 893

Online and telephone support and counselling for 12 - 25 year olds, their families and friends.

1800RESPECT 1800 737732

Confidential information, counselling and support service for people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.

Always ring 000 in an emergency.