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How to prepare for coronavirus

Simple steps you can take to protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Updated 21 May 2020

Learn where to go to get the facts, how to reduce the spread of viruses and what steps you can take to be prepared. 



Learn the facts about coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a new disease that infects the respiratory (breathing) system: the nose, throat and lungs. It is caused by a new type of coronavirus that spreads easily from person to person. Understanding the virus and how it spreads will help you to protect yourself and others.

The virus can spread through

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching surfaces (like door handles or tables) that have been contaminated with cough or sneeze droplets from a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth or face.

People with COVID-19 may experience

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat and extreme tiredness
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Other symptoms can include runny nose, headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue

Most people will have mild illness. Some people are at greater risk of getting the infection, and some people are at risk of more serious infection and even death.

Who is at risk?

In Australia, people most at risk of getting the virus are

  • travellers who have recently returned from overseas.
  • people who have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities

  • people in group residential settings.

Those most at risk from serious infection are

  • people 70 years and older

  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions

  • people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems

  • people in aged care facilities

  • people with a disability.

How can we prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Good hygiene can prevent infection. These are the most useful steps you can take:

  • Stay at home and only go out if it is really necessary, for example for shopping, medical appointments, exercise, work or to care for or visit others in line with state or territory government restrictions.
  • Do not go out if you are unwell.
  • Keep a 1.5-metre distance between yourself and others when outside your home.
  • Avoid physical contact, such as shaking hands.
  • Wear a face covering when outside of your home, if you cannot maintain 1.5 mt physical distance from others and live in in areas of high community transmission (in parts of Victoria this is now mandatory).
  • Use tap-and-go instead of cash.
  • If you must travel on public transport, travel at quiet times and avoid crowds, avoid public gatherings and at-risk groups like older people
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and objects around your home that are ‘high touch’, like door handles, light switches, bench tops and taps.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue. Throw used tissues in the bin and wash your hands.
  • If you been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people.

Share this poster of some simple steps to reduce the risk, available in community languages.

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Trusted sources for up-to-date information

Managing stress

It is normal to feel stress about this uncertain situation. Use your normal stress management techniques, or visit our page.



Get checking on family, friends and people who might need extra care in your community

COVID-19 is not the fault of any individual or community. It is not an excuse for racism and intolerance.

Help others understand the facts and how to protect themselves. This prevents misinformation and stress.

Show empathy to people who have been quarantined or isolated. This is a stressful situation for them and stigma will make things worse.
Looking after your mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic »

Check in using video phone apps, so you can have a face-to-face conversation.
Ways to help families stay happy and hopeful during self-isolation »

If you have elderly parents or relatives have a plan in place for caring for them if they fall ill.

Have open conversations with children about what is happening. 
Talking to children and young people about COVID-19 »

Share the facts and be respectful and supportive towards each other to help fight the spread of harmful myths.

Follow advise from government health authorities. Warnings and alerts can change at any time, so keep your family and friends informed if something changes.



Get organised, plan ahead and take simple precautions

Have an emergency plan for your family. This is helpful in any emergency situation. Prepare your own with one of our simple tools.

Plan to be able to work from home, or keep children occupied if they are sent home from school.

If you have a baby or child in childcare, think about how you will manage their wellbeing.

Stay calm, avoid myths and resist panic. We have seen how panic buying groceries and toilet paper unnecessarily can lead to shortages and make life difficult for many people. Particularly those most in need. Buy additional items but be sensible.

Check in on others. Look after those most at risk – your neighbour living alone, elderly friends, people with a disability and people with existing medical conditions, someone new to the area, someone from another country identified as high risk.

Check government travel advice and consider your travel plans carefully.

Check you have at least 2–3 weeks' supply of any prescription medicine and any other health supplies.

Learn how your children’s school, childcare centre, and your place of work plan to handle any outbreak.



Take action to protect yourself and others should symptoms appear 

  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, even mildly, it is important you get tested as soon as possible. Early diagnosis means you can take steps to avoid spreading the virus to someone else.
  • To be tested for COVID-19 seek advice from your doctor or from the healthdirect hotline on 1800 022 222 or visit healthdirect coronavirus hub.
  • Call ahead of time to book a doctor’s appointment and tell your doctor of your symptoms. 
  • Wear a face mask only if you are unwell to protect others. You don't need to if you are well.
  • Keep track of your movements by downloading the COVID Safe app or through a diary to speed up the work of contact tracers if you or your contacts develop COVID-19.
  • Manage your stress by using calming techniques. 

Get Prepared app

Build and keep your emergency plan close at hand with our app.