COVID-19 cases and contacts

What to do if you have COVID-19 or are a close contact

  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you should stay at home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms resolve.
  • If you have COVID-19 or are a close contact, do not visit high-risk settings (unless urgent medical care or treatment is required) such as:
    • hospitals
    • residential disability and aged care facilities
    • other healthcare settings (e.g. GPs or Aboriginal Medical Services). 

COVID-19 health support

For non-urgent health advice:

  • call your GP
  • visit a pharmacy
  • call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

You should go to an emergency department (ED) if your symptoms are severe, or if you have a serious or life-threatening condition. Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. Let the operator and hospital know prior to arrival if you have COVID-19 so they know to treat you safely.

I have COVID-19

The following advice is recommended for people who test positive to COVID-19:

Stay home and avoid contact with others

The COVID-19 infectious period can vary, but most people are considered infectious from 48 hours before their symptoms start and for a minimum of 5 days, but you can be infectious for up to 10 days.

COVID-19 cases should:

  • stay home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms have resolved to prevent spreading the illness to others
  • avoid close contact with people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19
  • avoid visiting high risk settings such as hospitals (unless your require urgent medical care or treatment), residential disability and aged care facilities, and other healthcare settings for at least 7 days after testing positive for COVID-19.

The WA Department of Health no longer requires registration of positive RAT results.

Protect others – tell your close contacts you have COVID-19

It is likely that you were in close contact with other people while you were infectious. You should advise those people that they are COVID-19 close contacts. 

Consider the following to reduce the risk of spreading infection to your household contacts, especially if they are at a greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

  • stay and sleep in a separate room, if possible
  • avoid contact with others while using shared bathroom and kitchen facilities
  • avoid other common use areas, such as dining and lounge rooms, when other people are using them
  • wear a mask  in shared areas
  • clean surfaces with detergent and disinfectant when you have finished using a shared area
  • wash your used kitchen utensils in the dishwasher or clean thoroughly with hot soapy water
  • handle your own laundry and use the hottest setting on the washing machine.

If you care for young children or other household members, it may not be possible to meet all considerations to minimise contact, but you should attempt what is practical and safe. For example, wear a mask and wash your hands regularly while caring for others in your household.

Take care to remain separate from any members of your household who are elderly, immunocompromised, or have medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney problems.

Learn more about staying safe.


You should stay home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms have resolved.

Some people may continue to have mild or intermittent symptoms after their recovery from COVID-19.

If you experience new COVID-19 symptoms more than 35 days after your last COVID-19 infection, you may have been re-infected and should test again for COVID-19.

COVID-19 close contacts

You are a COVID-19 close contact if you spent time with somebody who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were infectious under the following conditions:

  • you live in the same household
  • you are an intimate partner.

The infectious period for a person with COVID-19 is gnerally taken from 48 hours before their symptoms start or, if they have no symptoms, from 48 hours before a person has a positive test result.

If you work in a high-risk setting such as a hospital, residential care facility or other healthcare setting (e.g. GP orAboriginal Medical Service), tell your employer when you become a close contact and check if there are any additional infection and prevention requirements for your workplace.

You no longer need to quarantine if you are a close contact, but you should:

  • monitor for COVID-like symptoms and test for COVID-19 if symptoms develop
  • consider testing regularly for COVID-19 with a rapid antigen test (RAT) for one week, even if you do not have symptoms
  • stay at home until COVID-like symptoms have resolved, even if negative on testing
  • wear a mask when indoors and on public transport
  • avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor places
  • avoid high-risk setting such as hospitals, residential disability and aged care facilities, and other healthcare settings for at least 7 days after becoming a close contact and until symptoms resolve (unless you require urgent medical care or treatment).

Recovered cases

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and are exposed to another COVID-19 case within 35 days of your previous infection, you will not be considered a close contact.

Symptoms – when to seek medical help

Most people with COVID-19 can look after themselves however, it is important to monitor your symptoms and know when to seek medical help.

If you are at greater risk of severe illness, you should contact your GP immediately, as antiviral treatments need to be started within 5 days of developing COVID-19 symptoms.

You can monitor your COVID-19 symptoms using the My COVID-19 symptoms diary.

Mild symptoms (rest and recover at home)

Common symptoms include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, mild shortness of breath, runny or blocked nose, and loss of smell and/or taste. Other symptoms include headache, fatigue, muscle or joint pains, occasional vomiting or diarrhoea.

For mild symptoms:

  • try to get plenty of rest, drink water, and eat well
  • take pain-relieving medication (such as paracetamol) if required to help to reduce some symptoms
  • call your healthcare provider (such as your GP) if you have other ongoing medical needs or concerns about your health.

Worsening symptoms (call your GP)

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you develop worsening symptoms such as shortness of breath when moving around or coughing, coughing up mucous regularly, severe muscle aches, feeling very weak and tired, or are passing little or no urine.

Other worsening symptoms include vomiting or diarrhoea, a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, and shakes or shivers.

Severe symptoms (call 000)

Call Triple Zero (000) immediately if you, or the person you are caring for experience any of the following (do not wait to see if the symptoms change):

  • breathlessness at rest and/or you’re unable to speak in sentences
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • coughing up blood
  • severe headaches or dizziness
  • confusion (e.g. can’t recall the day, time or people’s names)
  • feeling faint or drowsy
  • finding it difficult to keep eyes open
  • passing no urine or a lot less urine than usual
  • lips or face turning blue
  • skin is cold, clammy, pale, mottled or turning blue
  • loss of consciousness

When you call an ambulance (dial Triple Zero – 000), let the operator know you have COVID-19 so the paramedics know how to treat you safely.

People at greater risk of severe illness

All people are at risk of infection with COVID-19, but some groups are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill, including:

  • older people
  • pregnant women
  • people with other health conditions (e.g. lung disease including asthma, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney failure, neurologic conditions, cancer)
  • people who are immunocompromised (due to a health condition or certain medication/treatments)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (especially those that are older or with other risk factors)
  • some people living with a disability.
  • people who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccination

Contact your GP or specialist for advice about planning for potential COVID-19 infection, and your eligibility for treatments such as antiviral medications.

If you test positive for COVID-19, contact your GP immediately, as antiviral treatments need to be started within 5 days of developing COVID-19 symptoms. Medication cannot be prescribed until you test positive to COVID-19. 

COVID-19 health support  

For non-urgent health advice:

  • call your GP
  • visit a pharmacy
  • call healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

You should go to an emergency department (ED) if you have severe symptoms or a serious or life-threatening condition. Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. Let the operator and hospital know prior to arrival if you have COVID-19 so they know to treat you safely.


COVID-19 antiviral treatments

Antiviral medication is available to some people at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. This medication must be commenced within the first 5 days of symptoms starting.

Medication will not be prescribed until you test positive to COVID-19. However, if you are at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 you are encouraged to speak with your doctor in advance about whether an oral antiviral suits your health needs and to discuss the risks and benefits of using the treatment. It is also useful to develop a plan with your doctor about how you will obtain these medications if you test positive to COVID-19.

Medications have benefits but can carry some risk of side-effects. Take the medication as instructed by the doctor and do not share prescription medications with friends or family.

Eligibility for antiviral medications

Your GP or specialist can determine if you are eligible for oral antiviral medications.

You may be eligible for the oral antiviral medications if you are:

  • 18 years or older and moderately to severely immunocompromised
  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander 30 years of age or older and with 1 or more risk factors for severe disease
  • 50 years or older with additional risk factors for severe disease
  • 70 years or older.

Risk factors include:

  • living in residential aged care
  • living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty
  • neurological conditions like stroke or dementia and demyelinating conditions
  • chronic respiratory conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or moderate or severe asthma
  • obesity or diabetes (type I or II requiring medication)
  • heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies
  • kidney failure or cirrhosis
  • living remotely with reduced access to higher level healthcare
  • past COVID-19 infection episode resulting in hospitalisation.

Suitability will also depend on factors such as other medications you take and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Visit the Australian Department of Health website (external site) for more information about eligibility for oral COVID-19 treatments.

Watch The Brief: Antivirals Eligibility (external site) to learn more about antiviral medications. 

Accessing oral antiviral medications

Antiviral medications can be prescribed by your GP or specialist. They should be started within 5 days of developing COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have COVID-19, it is best to consult a GP or specialist who knows your health conditions. You can request a telehealth consultation over the phone.

Your doctor can send an electronic script to a pharmacy. The medication may need to be delivered to you by the pharmacy or picked up by someone on your behalf, if you are recovering at home.

Antiviral medications are listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australian residents who hold a current Medicarecare card.

The Australian Department of Health (external site) has more information about oral treatments for COVID-19.

COVID-19 oral antiviral medication information sheets

Information for parents

Most children will have mild or no symptoms, but they can still transmit the virus to other people. Children with obesity, chronic heart, lung or neurological problems may become more unwell from COVID-19.

If your child has COVID-19 and is uncomfortable, you may treat their symptoms as you would with any cold or flu. This might include:

  • encouraging fluids and rest
  • feeding infants small amounts, more frequently
  • administering paracetamol and/or ibuprofen
  • administering saline drops for a blocked nose.

Fever (external site) is commonly experienced by children with viral illnesses. If your child is comfortable, their fever does not need treatment. If they appear irritable or uncomfortable, paracetamol and/or ibuprofen can be used.

Ibuprofen is best taken with food and no more than three times a day.

Paracetamol can be taken on an empty stomach up to four times a day.

You can use paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time or alternate between the two to allow more frequent dosing, if needed.

When to see a doctor

You should contact your child’s doctor if you are worried about your child, or if your child is:

  • working hard to breathe, is breathing quickly, or has long pauses between breaths
  • very sleepy, difficult to wake, or confused
  • showing signs of dehydration (external site)
  • experiencing severe chest or abdominal pain, or has pain that doesn’t go away after pain relief medication
  • experiencing persistent dizziness or headache
  • experiencing persistent fever lasting more than 5 days, or is under 3 months of age with a fever
  • experiencing pain or swelling in the legs.

Some general practices and clinics do not allow people with COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms to attend their premises. When you contact the clinic or practice, tell them your child has COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms so they can determine whether a telehealth appointment should be arranged.

If your child is scheduled for a health check appointment while they have COVID-19, you may be able to reschedule or arrange a telehealth appointment.  



There is a small risk of COVID-19 reinfection within 35 days of your prior infection. A reinfection is when a person becomes infected with COVID-19, and later becomes infected again. The likelihood depends on factors such as whether your immune response is compromised (e.g. by medications for other conditions), your vaccination history, degree of exposure to virus in the community and how much that virus differs from the strain that caused the previous infection.

You should stay at home if you have COVID-like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, cough or fever.

If you are at higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19 and develop new COVID-like symptoms, you should contact your doctor or health care provider for advice.

If you experience new COVID-like symptoms more than 35 days after your last COVID-19 infection, you may have been re-infected and should test again. Follow advice for COVID-19 cases if you test positive.


The World Health Organisation defines post COVID-19 condition, which is commonly known as long COVID, as the presence of ongoing symptoms three months after initial COVID-19 infection and lasting at least two months. Most symptoms progressively resolve, and it is uncommon for symptoms to persist for more than a year.

Common long COVID symptoms include:

  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath
  • persistent cough
  • ‘brain fog’ or problems with memory and concentration
  • depression
  • headaches
  • mood swings.

Consult your GP if you think you may have long COVID. Your GP may request tests to determine if your symptoms are caused by long COVID or another health condition.

Your GP can also provide advice on managing your symptoms.

The best ways to avoid long COVID are to stay up-to-date with vaccinations and to avoid COVID-19 infection by continuing to follow public health advice such as wash hands frequently with sanitiser or soap and water, cover coughs and sneezes, maintain physical distancing from other people, and wear a mask, as required.

Last reviewed: 12-12-2023

See also