Below are some answers to the common Coronavirus (COVID-19) questions
(Updated 7:45am, 15/03/20 – this info will change, so do not rely exclusively on this. Speak to your doctor, and keep up to date on current health authority announcements & official information sources listed below).
How bad is it in Victoria now? In Victoria we currently have 57 total confirmed cases.
How does it spread? COVID-19 spreads through:
- Close contact with an infected person; mostly face-to-face or within a household.
- Contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- Touching things that have infected respiratory droplets, then touching your mouth or face
Can it be transmitted through the air? I.e. can I walk around in public and just catch it from breathing?
- It cannot jump across a room or be carried for long distances in the air. Currently, we can continue activities like work and school (unless advised otherwise by your workplace/school)
How bad are symptoms?
- Symptoms can range from mild illness to severe pneumonia. Majority of people infected will get mild symptoms (some e.g. elderly / existing heart and lung conditions, may get severe disease).
Can I just turn up to my local GP / any GP clinic to get tested for COVID-19?
- No. Not all GP clinics are testing for coronavirus. If you feel unwell and need to see your GP, call ahead to inform the clinic first so they can also prepare.
- Tell the clinic about your symptoms, travel history and any recent close contact with someone who has coronavirus.
- If the clinic agrees to see you, wear a mask to and at the clinic to prevent spread to others.
Special note to high risk patients: If you have fever / cough / sore throat / shortness of breath AND have travelled internationally in the past 14 days OR had contact with someone who is a diagnosed/suspected case in the preceding 14 days, DO NOT turn up to your GP clinic without calling them first. You may be directed to a hospital coronavirus clinic instead (list is below).
What if I have mild cold symptoms (e.g. sore throat, runny nose) but don’t meet the high-risk criteria?
- It is important that you do not go to work, school/university/childcare, the gym, or public areas, and you should not use public transport, taxis, or ride-sharing services.
- If you are worried about your symptoms and unsure whether to see a doctor, call you GP or the hotline (1800 020 080).
- If you need to seek medical care wear a surgical mask if available when attending.
What does “social distancing” mean? Social distancing means separating yourself from other people as much as possible when you’re in public places, and avoiding crowded places. Practically, you should:
- keep a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and others
- avoid crowds and mass gatherings (where it’s difficult to keep the appropriate distance)
- avoid small gatherings in enclosed spaces (e.g. family celebrations)
- avoid shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
- avoid visiting vulnerable people (e.g. aged care facilities, infants)
How to I prevent spread?
- Reduce spread by regularly washing hands, staying home if sick, avoiding unnecessary mass gatherings, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, and wearing a mask if sick.
- More on prevention is listed from the DHHS website below.
- Be aware that certain people (e.g. elderly, infants, immunocompromised people) are at greater risk so, if unwell, stay away or be extra cautious with hand hygiene around these groups.
What about travel?
- Current advice from Smart Traveller: Regardless of your destination, age or health, reconsider any non-essential overseas travel at this time.
- See smartraveller.gov.au for further details.
Should everyone be wearing masks? No. You don’t need to wear a mask if you’re well. Masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people infected with coronavirus from spreading it to others.
What if I become more unwell while self-isolating? If you become more unwell while self-isolating, you need medical care. Contact your GP, Coronavirus hotline, or 000 if concerned.
Can you give me an antibiotic to treat or prevent it? There is no treatment for coronavirus currently. But medical care can treat most of the symptoms. Antibiotics do not work on viruses.
Is there a vaccine? Unfortunately not yet.
Should I get the flu vaccine this year? Absolutely. It should hopefully be available in most clinics in April.
Where can I get reliable information? ***
- DHHS info: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19
- World Health Organisation info: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
- Smart traveller info: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
What’s the hotline number?
- National COVID-19 triage hotline on 1800 020 080
- The dedicated DHHS hotline on 1800 675 398
- Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only
Once again, remember that our understanding of the illness is constantly changing and this information is definitely going to change. Do not use this as your sole source of information and keep up to date with the websites listed above, as well as info from your local health authorities.
Further info from aforementioned websites:
Ten ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus
- Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
- Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication ensure you have adequate supplies.
- Phone your GP first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.
- Continue healthy habits: exercise, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and now is the time to quit smoking.
- Don’t wear a face mask if you are well.
- Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol.
- Get the flu shot (available April).
- Shaking hands is optional!
Screening clinics have been established at 12 Victorian hospitals.
- The Alfred Hospital
- Albury Wodonga
- Austin Hospital
- Barwon Health – Geelong
- Box Hill Hospital
- Monash Clayton
- Northern Hospital.
- Peninsula Health – Frankston
- The Royal Melbourne Hospital
- St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne
- Sunshine Hospital
- Wonthaggi Hospital