COVID-19 cases and contacts

To help protect people at risk of serious disease from COVID-19, close contacts and COVID-19 cases should not visit high-risk settings, such as:

  • hospitals
  • residential disability, mental health and aged care facilities
  • other healthcare settings (e.g. GP, dental and physiotherapy clinics, Aboriginal Medical Services)

You can attend public hospitals and high-risk settings for urgent medical care or treatment. If you can, contact the facility before you arrive to let them know you are a COVID-19 case or close contact.

If you work in a high-risk setting, contact your employer to check the rules for your workplace.

Information about support and treatment options people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19is provided below.

COVID-19 support

COVID-19 close contacts

A close contact is a household or household-like contact, or intimate partner of a person with COVID-19 who has had contact with them during their infectious period. 

The infectious period for a person with COVID-19 is taken from 48 hours before onset of symptoms or 48 hours before the positive test result, if there are no symptoms.

If you work in a high-risk setting such as a hospital, residential care facility or other healthcare setting (e.g. GP, dentist or physiotherapy clinic, Aboriginal Medical Services), tell your employer when you become a close contact, and check the rules for your workplace.

What to do if you're a close contact without symptoms

Close contacts don’t need to isolate but to reduce the risk to others it is recommended that you:

  • monitor for COVID-like symptoms and test for COVID-19 if symptoms develop
  • consider working from home, if possible
  • tell your employer you are a close contact and discuss when you should return to the workplace
  • wear a mask when indoors and on public transport, if you must leave the house
  • test for COVID-19 with a rapid antigen test (RAT) before leaving home each day for 5 days (free RATs are available for close contacts)
  • avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor places.

What to do if you’re a close contact with symptoms

Test for COVID-19 as soon as possible after developing symptoms.

To protect others from infection, stay at home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms have resolved, even if your test result is negative.

For at least 7 days after becoming a close contact and until symptoms have resolved, you should not work in or visit high-risk settings such as hospitals or other healthcare settings (e.g. GP, dentist or physiotherapy clinic, Aboriginal Medical Services).

You can attend public hospitals and high-risk settings for urgent medical care or treatment. If you can, contact the facility before you arrive to let them know you are a close contact.

Healthcare workers should contact their workplace to confirm additional infection prevention and control measures for their workplace to help manage the risk of COVID-19.

Recovered cases

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

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

COVID-19 cases

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

Stay home and avoid contact with others

  • Stay home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms have resolved to prevent spreading the illness to others.
  • When you are considered infectious for COVID-19, which is a minimum of 5 days, but it can be 10 days or longer.
  • Avoid close contact with people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Register your positive RAT result

If you tested positive using a rapid antigen test (RAT), register your result online. For RAT registration help, call 13 COVID (13 268 43). Press the star (*) if you need an interpreter.

You don't need to register your result if you tested positive with a PCR test.

Tell your close contacts you have COVID-19

It's likely you will have been in close contact with other people while you were infectious.

Your infectious period starts:

  • 48 hours before your symptoms started, or
  • 48 hours before you tested positive, if you don't have symptoms.

You are considered infectious for COVID-19 for a minimum of 5 days, but it can be 10 days or longer.

Tell everyone you interacted closely with during this time that you tested positive for COVID-19.

Tell your workplace you have COVID-19

Tell your manager or relevant staff member that you have tested positive for COVID-19.

Keep evidence of your positive test result, in case you need to show your employer. Evidence could include:

  • a photograph of your positive rapid antigen test (RAT)
  • your PCR test result from My Health Record
  • your PCR test result text message
  • the text message that you received from WA Health after registering your positive RAT result on HealthyWA or testing positive via PCR test. Do not delete this text message – it is evidence of your COVID-positive status and cannot be re-sent later.

Recovery

You should stay home for at least 5 days and until your symptoms resolve (e.g. frequent cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny or blocked nose, temperature).

Some people may continue to have mild or intermittent symptoms after their recovery from COVID-19. You can leave home if you have a mild and infrequent cough (e.g. a mild cough that occurs only a few times per day), loss of taste and/or smell, and tiredness or muscle/joint pain.

Symptoms - what to expect

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

COVID-19 cases should generally avoid high-impact activities, weights, running and workouts.

People with conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes need to pay close attention as they may develop more severe illness.

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

Mild symptoms (rest and recover at home)

Mild symptoms include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of taste and/or smell, and diarrhoea. Other mild symptoms include headaches, a sore/scratchy throat, muscle aches, runny nose, chills/night sweats and vomiting.

Younger people may develop a rash, swelling or blistering of toes or fingers.

Over-the-counter treatments for mild symptoms

  • Pain-relieving medication or cold and flu tablets may help reduce some symptoms. Don’t exceed the recommended doses.
  • Drink lots of water, take electrolytes (available from pharmacies) if vomiting and sleep when you feel like it.

Worsening symptoms (call your GP)

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you or the person you are caring for develops symptoms such as mild shortness of breath when moving around or coughing, coughing up mucous regularly, severe muscle aches, feeling very weak and tired but still able to move about, and little or no urination.

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

Contact your GP if you feel that you are unable to take care of yourself and others are unable to take care of you (such as showering, putting on clothes, going to the toilet or making food).

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):

  • severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath, even when resting and not moving around
  • breathless when talking or finding it hard to finish sentences
  • breathing gets worse very suddenly
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • coughing up blood
  • lips or face turning blue
  • skin is cold, clammy, pale or mottled
  • severe headaches or dizziness
  • fainting or often feeling like fainting
  • unable to get out of bed or look after self or others
  • confusion (e.g. can’t recall the day, time or people’s names)
  • finding it difficult to keep eyes open.

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

Information for parents

Looking after your child’s health

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

Fever with COVID-19

Fever (external site) is commonly experienced with most viral illnesses.

If your child is comfortable, their fever does not need treatment. If they appear irritable or uncomfortable, paracetamol and 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.

Treatment

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 smaller amounts, more frequently
  • administering paracetamol and/or ibuprofen (as detailed above)
  • administering saline drops for a blocked nose

When to see a doctor

You should contact your child’s doctor if your child is:

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

Some general practices and clinics do not allow people with COVID-like symptoms or COVID-19 cases 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.  

Resources

Looking after yourself

It’s normal to feel stressed, worried and anxious if you have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with COVID-19. It can help to talk to friends and family about how you feel.

Avoid visitors in your house

Avoid having visitors in your home while you are unwell or have COVID-like symptoms. If people other than household members come to your home, let them know that you have COVID-19 and keep your distance from them.

Protect others when you have 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 or when caring for other members of your household and try to stay at least 1.5 metres from others
  • Clean surfaces with detergent and disinfectant when you have finished using in 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
  • Avoid any other contact, including touching, kissing, hugging and intimate contact, with others
  • Open doors and windows to let in fresh air if safe to do so and weather permits.

Caring for others

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

Living with people at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19

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.

People at greater risk

All people are at risk of infection with COVID-19, but some groups are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill. These groups include:

  • older people (over 65 years, and over 50 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)
  • people who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccination
  • pregnant women
  • people with other health conditions (e.g. lung disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney failure)
  • people who are immunocompromised (due to a health condition or certain medication/treatments).

If you are at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, plan ahead and contact your GP or specialist for advice about whether you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments (such as antiviral medications), testing options (RAT or PCR) if you develop COVID-like symptoms, and development of an individualised care plan, should you contract COVID-19.

If you test positive for COVID-19, contact your GP immediately, as antiviral treatments need to be taken within 5 days of symptoms starting. Medication can’t be prescribed until you test positive to COVID-19. 

Other useful contacts:

  • healthdirect (free health advice): 1800 022 222
  • 13 COVID (practical support and COVID-19 information): 13 268 43

People who are immunocompromised

Being immunocompromised means your immune system does not protect you from infection as well as it should. You may be immunocompromised because of a condition you were born with or have since developed, or because of medications or treatments for a health condition.

Not everyone who is immunocompromised is eligible for prescription treatments.

Resources

People at greater risk

Use the information above in conjunction with the following websites:

Disability services

Aged care

Aboriginal people

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 taken within the first 5 days of symptoms starting.

Medication will not be prescribed until you test positive to COVID-19. Your doctor will check which is the best medication for you and that it is safe for you to use. They will also discuss the risks and benefits of using the treatment.

Medications have treatment 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

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

  • 18 years or older and moderately to severely immunocompromised
  • 50 years or older with 2 or more risk factors for severe disease
  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander 30 years of age or older and with 1 or more risk factors for severe disease
  • 70 years or older

Suitability will also depend on factors such as the other medications you are taking and whether you are pregnant. 

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

Accessing oral antiviral medications

Antiviral medications are prescribed by your general practitioner (GP) or specialist. They should be started within 5 days of developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The prescriber can send an electronic script to a pharmacy. The medications 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).

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 for advice over the phone or attend a GP respiratory clinic.

Visit the Australian Department of Health website for more information on oral COVID-19 treatments.

COVID-19 patient medication information sheets:

Reinfection and long COVID

Within 35 days of previous infection

There is a small risk of COVID-19 reinfection within 35 days of your prior infection. The probability depends on whether your immune response is compromised (e.g. by medications for other conditions). Other factors include 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 (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever).

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

More than 35 days after an infection

If you experience new COVID-like symptoms more than 35 days after your last COVID-19 infection, you may have been reinfected and should test again. Follow advice for COVID-19 cases if you test positive or close contacts, if you are a close contact.

Long COVID

You are usually considered to have long COVID if your symptoms have persisted for more than two months after COVID-19 infection. 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, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • ‘brain fog’ or problems with memory and concentration
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint and muscle pain

Consult your GP if you continue to experience symptoms for more than two months after infection. 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 continue to follow public health advice (e.g. 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: 04-11-2022

See also