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Community resources and advice

Help us to promote good hygiene and mental health, physical distancing and staying connected with our community.

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Get tested as soon as you feel sick

Come forward and get tested even if you only have mild symptoms like a cough. If you need advice:

Advice on everyday topics

The key to handwashing is to wash well and wash often. You need a detergent (surfactant) and water. If you don’t have soap or handwash, you can use:

  • body wash
  • combined body wash/shampoo
  • shampoo.

Any of these alternatives will work for handwashing as they contain surfactant to help disrupt organic material.

Wear a mask:

  • if it is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others 

  • in areas where there has been community transmission 

  • when in high-risk indoor areas such as public transport, supermarkets, shops, churches and other places of worship  

  • when caring for or serving vulnerable people 

  • if working in a cafe, restaurant, pub, club or other high-risk indoor areas.  

While wearing a mask in any of these settings is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. 

People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home. They should wear a face mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

Children under 12 years of age do not need to wear a mask. Toddlers under 2 years of age and babies must not wear masks, which are a choking and suffocation risk.

NSW Health staff are required to wear masks if they are within 1.5 metres of patients to protect the patients. 

The NSW Government has distributed masks to health workers to meet current demand and is monitoring the supply of masks across the state.

Seasonal allergies, sometimes called hay fever, are symptoms that happen when outdoor moulds release their spores, or plants release pollen into the air.

COVID-19 and seasonal allergies share some symptoms, but there are often some key differences between the two. For example, COVID-19 can cause fever, which is not a common symptom of seasonal allergies.

Since some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and seasonal allergies are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference between them. If you are unsure about what might be affecting you, please contact your GP. Most GPs are currently able to provide telehealth consultations for problems like these.

 If you have any possible COVID-19 symptoms (even if you suspect it’s just your first allergy attack of the season) you need to immediately get tested for COVID-19 to confirm your diagnosis. If you normally have seasonal allergies and you experience any new symptoms or a change in your symptoms, you should also get tested for COVID-19 straight away.

Find out more about managing seasonal allergies and COVID-19 symptoms.

Most people that are not eligible for Medicare will have health or travel insurance. For those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.

These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas with respiratory symptoms seeking early medical advice.


While COVID-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now mainly spreading from person-to-person. There is no reason to think that any animals,  including pets might be a source of infection with this new virus. There have been no reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in Australia.

There is no evidence that companion animals, including pets can spread COVID-19. Since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around them.

Australian bats

At this stage, there is no evidence that bats carry the COVID-19 virus in Australia. However, Australian bats can carry other serious infections, such as Australian bat lyssavirus and Hendra virus so they are best avoided. You should also avoid bats overseas.

Hand dryers are not effective in killing or preventing COVID-19 on their own. They may increase the risk of spread of the virus if used on hands that have not been cleaned properly.

To protect yourself against COVID-19, you should clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitiser. If you have washed your hands, dry them thoroughly by using paper towels. If there are no paper towels available, use a hot air dryer or let your hands air dry. Your hands must be dried completely.

If you are using hand towels to dry your hands, such as in the bathroom at home, it’s important to wash them regularly. If someone in your home is unwell, they should use their own hand towel.

Keep connected as a community by taking some simple steps.

  • Stay informed. Use information from reputable sources including this website, the Australian Government website and the NSW Government Facebook page.
  • Support others in our community. Look out for neighbours and family.
  • Keep connected to your family, friends, work colleagues through phone, email and social media.

Are you worried that you or someone you know may have or has COVID-19? Or are you anxious about being in isolation and would you like to speak to someone about it?

Contact one of the services below for support or talk to your doctor.

  • Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 or Lifeline Australia 
    A crisis support service that provides short term support at any time for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551800 or Kids Helpline 
    A free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years.

  • NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511 
    Mental health crisis telephone service in NSW.

Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. Everyone can benefit from practicing good sleep habits. The following habits and practices will help you sleep well.

  1. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  2. Don’t nap during the day.
  3. Reduce or cut out alcohol and stimulants (coffee, tea, tobacco, soft drinks), particularly at night.
  4. Avoid using sleeping tablets.
  5. Get regular exercise each day, but not just prior to going to bed.
  6. Set aside time during the day to deal with problems (don’t take them to bed where you will think about them).
  7. Read or watch television in another area away from the bed​.
  8. Try to make the hour before going to sleep as calm as possible by reading, or trying a guided relaxation program​.
  9. Keep the bedroom comfortable, dark and quiet.
  10. Try not to lie in bed worrying about not sleeping.
  11. If not asleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something quiet such as reading or watching TV, and go back to bed when you are sleepy.

The first symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza (flu) infections are often very similar. They both cause fever and similar respiratory symptoms, which can then range from mild through to severe disease, and sometimes can be fatal.

While the flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, it is more important than ever to get a flu vaccine this year. Flu vaccination reduces your chances of getting influenza, which means it also reduces the risk of you having two potentially serious infections, influenza and COVID-19, at the same time.

You can leave your home to get a flu shot unless you have been directed to self-isolate. Read frequently asked questions on flu and COVID-19.

Vaccinate your child on time

Vaccinating your child on time can protect them from serious preventable diseases and can help reduce the spread of these diseases in the community. It’s ok to leave your house to get your child vaccinated unless you or child has been directed to self-isolate.

Pregnancy and COVID-19

If you are pregnant it’s really important to keep your vaccinations up to date. It’s ok to leave your house to get vaccinated, unless you have been directed to self-isolate. Learn more about pregnant women, newborns and COVID-19.

It’s safe to visit hospital and GP clinics

Don’t put off medical appointments or avoid seeking the care you need care for you and your family.

If you have any concerns about medical appointments or pre-existing health conditions in relation to COVID-19, call your GP clinic or hospital before you visit.

Public drinking water supplies are safe to drink. The surfaces around the fountain, including the spout and button/lever could pose a transmission risk for COVID-19 and other germs. At this stage, it is not certain how long viruses that cause COVID-19 survives on surfaces.

NSW Health recommends that you don't place your mouth on the spout of a water fountain. Test the water flow and let the water run for a few seconds before drinking the water without putting your mouth or lips on the spout.

If the fountain requires you to push a button or lever, clean the surface first or use your elbow. Clean your hands afterwards with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. NSW Health recommends that organisations carry out frequent cleaning of water bubblers and fountains.

There is no need to bulk-buy products such as toilet paper, canned food or paracetamol.

Households should have a small stock of non-perishable groceries in case they are asked to self-isolate for 14 days. It’s important to recognise the role of family and friends in supporting those in isolation and that online grocery delivery services are now available in most areas of NSW.

What you need to know

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses.

Some coronaviruses cause illness in humans. Others cause illness in animals, such as bats, camels and civets.

Human coronaviruses generally cause mild illness, such as the common cold.

Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve to infect and spread among humans, causing severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (2002) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) (2012).

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. It is closely related to a bat coronavirus.

It was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, where it has caused a large and ongoing outbreak. Cases have since been identified across the world. 

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The WHO used this declaration to call for urgent and aggressive action. They noted that this is a pandemic that can be controlled. Both China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining outbreaks.

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting COVID-19 are those who have:

  • recently returned from overseas
  • been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

There is also evidence of limited spread of COVID-19 in the Australian community.

Based on what we know so far about COVID-19 and what we know about other coronaviruses, those at greatest risk of serious infection are:

  • people aged 70 years and over
  • people with chronic medical conditions
  • people with impaired or compromised immune systems
  • people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness 
  • very young children and babies.*

*At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. So far there has been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

You can find COVID-19 support and information for seniors and advice for vulnerable people to lower your risk of COVID-19 exposure.  

It is important to remember that even healthy young adults can have severe disease caused by COVID-19.

People living in group residential settings are at greater risk of being exposed to outbreaks of COVID-19 if a case is diagnosed in a resident or staff member. This includes:

  • people living in residential aged care facilities and disability group homes
  • people in detention facilities
  • students in boarding schools
  • people on cruise ships.

People living in some group residential settings are also more likely to have conditions that make them at greater risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

According to the WHO, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 lasts on surfaces. 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, including the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose. 

The infection period for the virus will vary from person-to-person. Mild symptoms in an otherwise healthy individual may resolve over just a few days. Similar to influenza, for an individual with other ongoing health issues, such as a respiratory condition, recovery may take weeks and in severe cases could be potentially fatal.

The nose/throat swab for COVID-19 looks for virus present in your nose and throat.

If you have had a negative test and you are in quarantine — as a returned traveller or a close contact of a case — you must remain in quarantine.

A negative test can mean that:

  • you didn’t have COVID-19 at the time of testing and you didn’t meet the criteria for diagnosis so you no longer need to self-isolate
  • COVID-19 couldn’t be found on the test even though you are infected. As the virus needs to multiply in your nose/throat for it to be found, if you are early in the disease process it won’t be found on the swab.
  • you have previously had a positive test showing that you had COVID-19, you have recovered from COVID-19, you have cleared the virus and we can no longer find it.

COVID-19 posters, brochures, videos and social media resources

Last updated: 4 September 2020

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