COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus circulating worldwide called SARS-CoV-2.
As with all respiratory viruses, practising good hygiene is at the core of protecting yourself from being infected with coronavirus.
Avoid touching your face
Try not to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Especially with unwashed hands. This helps you avoid infecting yourself if you do pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often
Regular hand washing with soap and water is one of the most important things you can do to avoid being infected with coronavirus.
Here are some tips for effective hand washing:
- use soap and water
- wash for at least 20 seconds (enough time to sing 2 rounds of “Happy Birthday”)
The World Health Organization has a useful guide to good hand washing procedure.
Especially wash your hands:
- after you cough and sneeze
- after using the bathroom
- before, during and after you prepare food
- before eating
- after handling animals or animal waste
- before putting on a mask
- after removing a mask.
An alcohol-based sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol is a good substitute for hand hygiene if you can’t access soap and water. Sanitisers with less than 60% alcohol may not kill the virus. Again, as with hand washing you need to cover your hands and rub it in all over for at least 20 seconds.
Clean and disinfect surfaces
Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, e.g. door handles, light switches, counters, and bathroom and kitchen areas. Do this every day. Use a disinfectant or household detergent.
Cover coughs and sneezes
Protect those around you by following good cough etiquette.
- cough or sneeze into a tissue – making sure you cover your nose and mouth
- or cough/sneeze into your elbow or sleeve
- put used tissues in the bin straightaway
- wash your hands with soap and water immediately after, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Increase ventilation and fresh air
- open windows or adjust air conditioning to ventilate rooms.
- stay at home and only go out if it’s essential (see your state or territory health department for public health orders)
- stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Everyone must practise this physical distancing when outside the home to stop the virus from spreading.
- avoid physical greetings, such as handshakes, kisses or hugs
- use tap and go instead of cash
- travel at quiet times and avoid crowds.
Download the COVIDSafe app
Download the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app for smartphones (iPhones and Android) from the App Store or Google Play Store and then register your details. You will be asked for your name, age range, postcode and mobile phone number.
The app will allow for quicker and more comprehensive contact tracing than is possible by the manual method otherwise used.
If you subsequently come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 you will be notified (if that person consents to the data release).
The app uses a Bluetooth handshake to exchange data with any other phone that has the app that you come into contact with for more than 15 minutes and are less than 1.5 metres distant from.
The data is encrypted and stored on your phone. You cannot access the data. Only state and territory public health officials can access the data, and only with your permission.
Stay home if you are sick
If you feel unwell, stay at home. Don’t go to work. Don’t visit anyone in hospital or an aged care or other health facility. And seek medical care (call in advance) if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Follow the instructions of your local health authority. The national Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 can help with information about the coronavirus.
If you are instructed to leave home for testing, wear a surgical mask – if you have one – to protect other people, stay 1.5 metres away from other people, and cover your coughs and sneezes.
Use our coronavirus risk tool to assess your symptoms
Should I wear a face mask?
According to the Department of Health, most people will not benefit from wearing a surgical mask. Wearing a mask in the community is only helpful to prevent people with COVID-19 or with COVID-19 symptoms from spreading the disease to others. If you are well, the Department of Health does not recommend wearing a surgical mask. The Government has a factsheet – Information on the use of surgical masks.
The World Health Organization has reviewed its advice on masks (6 April 2020) and also finds the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community is not supported by current evidence and carries uncertainties and critical risks.
They say there is no evidence that wearing a mask by healthy people in the community can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
Some of the risks include self-contamination when touching, re-using, and disposing of masks. Wearing a mask may also give a false sense of security, leading to more lax attention to other preventive measures, such as hand hygiene. Masks alone are insufficient to provide adequate protection and other measures are always needed.
The World Health Organization has advice on the correct and safe use of masks for people who choose or are instructed to wear one.
People at higher risk of serious illness
People who have been identified as being at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected are:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- people aged 70 years and older
- people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease or COPD
- people with compromised immune systems.
These groups of people have been advised to stay at home and self-isolate for their own protection. Going outside to get some fresh air and exercise, with or without a support person is fine, but you should limit contact with other people. Where possible, online ordering of food and groceries will reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.
Infographic courtesy of healthdirect.