Keeping yourself safe

Last update: 27 Mar 2020 4:23pm

Prevent the spread

Personal hygiene is an important protection against COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses. You can help slow the spread of illness by:

  • washing your hands often with soap and warm, running water (or alcohol-base hand rub), especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • using a tissue (or flexed elbow if a tissue is not readily available) to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, then putting the tissue in the rubbish
  • staying at home if you are sick, unless you are told to see a doctor
  • keeping two large steps from others if you can, when you are out in public
  • wearing a facemask if you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms and need to be around other people (for example, to access arranged medical care)
  • knowing the signs of illness.

Hand hygiene

Practising good hand hygiene is your best defence.

How to wash

  • Use soap and warm, running water if you can.
  • Make sure the soap and water get on your whole hand – palms, backs of hands, thumbs, fingertips, wrists and the webbing between your fingers.
  • Rub your hands for 15–20 seconds, or for as long as it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song slowly.
  • Rinse and dry well.

When to wash

  • After coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.
  • Before touching your face, especially your mouth, lips, nose, eyes.
  • Before eating, drinking, preparing food/drinks.
  • After caring for someone who is unwell.
  • After going to the toilet.
  • After handling money, especially if you’re eating or handling food.

General household and workplace cleaning

Cleaning is an important way to slow the spread of viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.

For frequently touched surfaces like doorhandles, tabletops, desks, light switches, railings, shared keyboards and mice, taps and handles:

  • Clean these surfaces frequently, making sure you remove any visible dirt and organic matter so that the disinfectant can work well.
  • Regularly wipe the surface using your normal household or workplace detergent/disinfectant, following the instructions on the label.
  • It’s okay to use detergent wipes, as long as the cleaning process is thorough and removes visible dirt/organic matter.

Surfaces that are less often touched:

  • Clean these surfaces at least when they start to look dusty or dirty and immediately after any spillage or contamination.
  • Use your normal household or workplace detergent, following the instructions on the label.
  • It’s okay to use detergent wipes, as long as the cleaning process is thorough and removes visible dirt/organic matter.
  • Damp mopping is better than dry.

Social distancing

Social distancing means increasing physical space between you and other people. It is important to exercise social distancing because COVID-19 is most likely to spread by close contact with an infected person, or by contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. So, the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

For more information see the Guide to social distancing.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 2:53pm

I’m sick and have recently travelled or had contact with a confirmed case

If you think you might have COVID-19 because you feel unwell with a fever OR cough, sore throat or shortness of breath AND have recently travelled internationally or interstate OR had contact with a confirmed case, phone the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or your GP straight away. Tell them about your symptoms and recent travel.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Tell the operator and the ambulance officer about your recent travel.

If you go to see your GP, you must call ahead and mention your symptoms and recent travel.

I’m sick and I’m a healthcare / aged care worker

All healthcare workers and aged care workers who provide direct patient care who get sick with fever (≥38˚C) or history of fever (eg night sweats, chills) AND acute respiratory infection (eg shortness of breath, cough, sore throat), with or without recent travel or contact with a confirmed case, are defined as suspected cases. You should not go to work. You should self-isolate and phone your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 immediately for advice.

I’m sick but haven’t travelled or had contact with a confirmed case (and I’m not a healthcare worker)

While COVID-19 is causing a lot of concern, it is important to remember that most people in Australia who are unwell are suffering from the usual viruses in our community.

See your GP if you feel you need to, or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. If you suddenly get a lot worse and are worried, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

You can also use healthdirect's online Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker for advice on what to do next.

I’m sick but do not have a regular GP

If you don’t have a regular GP, contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

If you think you might have COVID-19 because you feel unwell with a fever OR cough, sore throat or shortness of breath AND have recently travelled internationally or interstate OR had contact with a confirmed case, phone the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or your GP straight away. Tell them about your symptoms and recent travel.

If you have fever or shortness of breath, cough or sore throat and haven’t travelled or had contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days, call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 9:43am

What is a close contact

A close contact is someone who:

  • spends at least 15 minutes in face-to-face contact with someone who’s had a positive test result; or
  • spends more than 2 hours in an enclosed room with someone who’s had a positive test result.

Any other contact is deemed low risk.

I’ve been on the Ruby Princess cruise ship

We’re aware NSW has been in contact with passengers who were on that ship. Public Health Services (PHS) Tasmania will also be in touch as soon as possible. Please self-isolate at home until you hear from PHS Tasmania.

If you are very unwell and need an ambulance, let Ambulance Tasmania know you have been told to self-isolate because of your recent international travel, including that you were on the Ruby Princess.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 6:28pm

More information about self-isolation is available from the Australian Government Department of Health website, including:

What does ‘self-isolate’ mean

During the 14 days of self-isolation, you must stay at home or in your accommodation, except to access important, arranged medical care. Don’t go to public places, including work, school, childcare, university, shops or attend public gatherings. Only people who usually live with you should be in the home. Do not see visitors.

If you must leave the home or residence, such as to seek medical care, you should wear a surgical mask if you have one.

Who needs to self-isolate

From Saturday 21 March, all travellers arriving in Tasmania (including domestic and overseas travellers) must complete a Tasmanian Arrivals Form and self-isolate at home or in their accommodation for 14 days.

Anyone coming into Tasmania will be subject to self-isolation requirements whether you are an Essential Traveller or not. If you are an Essential Traveller then you will need to comply with the self-isolation conditions for Essential Travellers. See information for travellers and visitors for more information.

Non-essential travellers must self-isolate at home or in your accommodation for 14 days if you:

  1. Have arrived in Tasmania on or after 21 March 2020
  2. Have arrived in Australia on or after 16 March 2020
  3. Have been in ‘close contact’ with a confirmed case
  4. Develop fever OR acute respiratory infection (eg shortness of breath, cough, sore throat) within 14 days of returning from anywhere overseas. If you are sick call your GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

If you have been required to be in self-isolation and have completed your 14 day period without showing signs or symptoms of being unwell, you can return to your normal daily activities, subject to social distancing guidelines.

See Important information about self isolation for more information.

Why do you have to self-isolate for 14 days

You are asked to self-isolate because you might become unwell with coronavirus. It can take up to 14 days for people who have been infected with the virus to become sick, and it’s possible to spread the virus to others 24 hours before you feel sick.

Self-isolating is very important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Tasmania. If you have been told to self-isolate at home, you must do so. Breaching the self-isolation process may incur a penalty of up to $16,800.

You should monitor your health during this time, and call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 if you begin to feel unwell.

See Important information about self isolation for more information.

How to travel to home isolation if you need to use public transport

When travelling to your home or accommodation to start your isolation period, use private transport if you can, to protect others, and go straight there.

If you need to use public transport (buses, taxis, ride-hail services), you must:

  • Wear a surgical facemask, if you can.
  • Wash your hands before boarding and after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.
  • Try to keep away from others, especially elderly people.
  • Keep your hands to yourself as much as possible; minimise the things you touch.
  • Avoid direct contact with other passengers and drivers.
  • Cough / sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow; and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Can I leave self-isolation to access medical care

You can leave self-isolation to access arranged medical care when this is supported by your healthcare provider and it cannot safely or feasibly be postponed. You must contact your healthcare provider beforehand and let them know you are in self-isolation for COVID-19. Your healthcare provider will determine if your appointment can be deferred and will provide advice on safe travel if the appointment proceeds.

For these purposes, medical care includes:

  • Antenatal appointments
  • Specialist appointments
  • Outpatient clinic appointments
  • Urgent primary care appointments with your doctor that cannot be safely postponed
  • Urgent and emergency transport to hospital.

I’m in self-isolation and need to get some groceries/go to the chemist

It is very important that you don’t leave your home while you’re in self-isolation. If possible, ask a neighbour, family member or friend to help you. Some supermarkets and greengrocers also provide a home-delivery service for groceries. Contact Communities Tasmania for assistance.

Can I leave the house eg to walk the dog or for daily exercise

If you are in self-isolation, no – you need to stay on your property.

If you are not in self-isolation then you are still able to leave the property. There is no need to wear a facemask if you are well. It is a requirement to observe the public health advice regarding social distancing at all times.

See Important information about self isolation for more information.

What should I do if I become unwell after leaving self-isolation

While COVID-19 is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat are much more likely to be suffering from a cold or other respiratory illness – not COVID-19.

However, as a precaution, if you do develop these symptoms soon after leaving self-isolation, see your doctor.

I live with someone who’s in self-isolation. Do I need to self-isolate too

If the person you live with who is in self-isolation is well, you don’t need to stay in self-isolation. It’s OK to go to work /school. As always, cover any coughs or sneezes and wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose.

If the person who you live with gets sick and becomes a confirmed case, then you will need to self-isolate for 14 days. If you don’t get sick in that time, you’ll be free to leave home isolation.

I live with someone who’s in self-isolation and I’m at risk of severe illness (underlying health condition like heart disease / cancer, or elderly). How can I protect myself

People can spread the virus to others up to 24 hours before they show signs of being sick, so it’s important to protect yourself. If you have an option of living elsewhere while the person is in self-isolation that would be wise.

Otherwise:

  • Try to keep your distance from the person in self-isolation. Stay in separate rooms if you can and use separate bathrooms.
  • If you need to share a bathroom, keep toothbrushes and face washers / towels separate.
  • Don’t share drinks or food.
  • Wash your hands after touching crockery or cutlery used by the person in home isolation.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before touching your face and preparing food/drinks or eating.

I have information / concerns about non-compliance with self-isolation requirements

If you have information or concerns regarding non-compliance with self-isolation requirements, you can call the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

Last update: 27 Mar 2020 5:13pm

Who can be tested for COVID-19

There are strict national guidelines about who should be tested for COVID-19 because of global shortages of testing resources. There is no point testing people who are not sick.

Where can I be tested

Testing for COVID-19 is only available at a few places in Tasmania. If you meet national guidelines for testing, your doctor or Public Health Services will tell you where you need to go. You’ll need to book an appointment to have the test done. You will need to wear a mask to your appointment.

The Department of Health fact sheet I’m being tested. What do I need to know? has more information about the process for testing for COVID-19.

Coronavirus respiratory clinics

Four respiratory clinics have opened in Tasmania to help meet the demand for COVID-19 testing. The clinics are located in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Latrobe.

These clinics are not open for walk-up testing. Anyone who thinks they may need testing should contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738. Your GP can also refer you for testing if you meet national guidelines.

After being tested, you will be instructed to return home to self-isolate until you’ve been told your test result. Results will usually be available within 48 hours.

Those who are in self-isolation after close contact with a case or travelling to Tasmania from interstate or overseas must complete their 14 day isolation, even if they have a negative test result.

How and when will I get my test results

The clinic that conducted your test or your GP will call you with your results. It usually takes at least 48 hours.

Please do not call the Public Health Hotline for your test results as they do not have this information.

I’ve had a negative test result but I’m getting worse

See your GP or call HealthDirect on 1800 022 222. If you are severely unwell, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

I want to be tested even though I’m not sick

The national approach is to test people who are unwell and have recently travelled overseas, interstate or been on a cruise ship, or been in contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19. There is no value in testing people who are not sick. There is a global shortage of testing resources.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 4:39pm

I’m wanting to visit or enter a residential aged care facility

The outbreak of any virus in an aged care facility can cause significant problems.

COVID-19 is a health risk for older people. New restrictions apply to protect them.

You can only enter a residential aged care facility if you are:

  • a resident of the facility; or
  • an employee of the facility (including contractors); or
  • providing goods or services necessary for the effective operation of the facility; or
  • providing health, medical or pharmaceutical services to a resident; or
  • providing care and support for a resident; or
  • providing end of life support for a resident; or
  • providing emergency management or law enforcement; or
  • a prospective resident viewing the facility.

You cannot enter an aged care facility if you have:

  • Arrived in Tasmania from overseas or interstate on or after 21 March and not completed your 14 day quarantine period; or
  • arrived in Tasmania from interstate or overseas within 14 days of your visit to the facility; or
  • had known contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
  • a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

From 1 May 2020, you must have had your yearly influenza vaccination to visit an aged care facility.

Aged care facilities must take extra precautions when it comes to visits. These include:

  • ensuring visits are no longer than 2 hours
  • allowing no more than two visitors, including doctors, at a time
  • making sure visits occur in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area they designate - there should be no visiting in communal areas
  • ensuring there are no large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment.
  • No school groups of any size are allowed to visit residential aged care facilities.

No children aged under 16 years are permitted to visit residential aged care facilities except to provide end-of-life support.

If you cannot visit your family and friends in a residential aged care facility, it’s important to keep in touch. Make phone or video calls, send postcards, photos or artwork or film short videos to share. Ask staff how they may be able to assist you.

See more information for residents of aged care services, family members and visitors.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 10:25am

TasWater

Drinking water supplied by TasWater is safe to drink. Disinfection processes for drinking water are designed and operated to manage pathogens, such as viruses. Conventional disinfection applied to inactivate the most resistant viruses will also inactivate COVID-19. No additional treatment is required and there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through drinking water. The safety of drinking water supplied to Tasmanians by TasWater is regulated by the Department of Health under a comprehensive legislative framework to ensure a consistent, reliable supply of safe, good quality drinking water.

Where a reticulated drinking water supply is available, this is the best and safest option. There is no need to buy bottled water. Water supply is an essential service and TasWater will continue to work with the Department to ensure that safe drinking water is delivered to your home at all times. Should the quality of your water change, then you will be advised about any restrictions on the safe use of your water. This is unlikely to occur and if it does, then it would not be COVID-19 related.

For more information see the Water Research Australia fact sheet for COVID-19.

Public drinking water fountains and bottle fill stations

Public drinking water supplies are safe to drink, however the surfaces around the fountain including the spout, button/leaver and nozzles could pose a risk for the transmission of COVID-19 and other germs.

  • Don’t place your mouth on the spout of the fountain or allow your water bottle to come into contact with the nozzle when refilling.
  • Test the water flow and let the water flow for 10 seconds to allow for fresh, clean water to come through prior to drinking.
  • If the fountain requires you to push a button or lever, clean the surface before and after, or use your elbow.
  • Clean your hands afterwards with an alcohol-based rub or wash them with soap and water.

The Department of Health will advise asset owners and managers carry out more frequent cleaning of drinking water fountains.

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 10:45am

Home isolation periods and/or the spread of COVID-19 can be stressful and may leave you feeling concerned. There are a range of support services available, including talking to a counsellor or other mental health professional.

See Looking after your mental health during COVID-19.

Head to Health

The Head to Health website provides links to trusted Australian mental health online and phone supports, resources and treatment options. It also has online programs and forums, as well as a range of digital information resources.

Using the search page, you can navigate to various resources and services for help if you’re experiencing mental health concerns, or trying to support someone else. If you’re not sure where to start, you can also use Sam the Chatbot. Sam provides tailored recommendations on information and services that best suit your needs.

Where to get help

Last update: 26 Mar 2020 10:48am

Should I use facemasks

If you are well, you do not need to wear a facemask to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Facemasks are generally for people who are suspected or known to have the virus and people in close contact (within a metre) of someone suspected or known to be infected. This is normally only healthcare workers and carers.

People who are sick with COVID-19 should wear a facemask (if they can) when they need to leave self-isolation, for example when they get tested or go to see a doctor.

How to use facemasks safely

Be careful to use facemasks properly. Follow the steps below to help protect others around you:

  • If given masks by your GP, leave the masks in a zip-lock bag until you need to use them.
  • Before putting on a facemask, wash your hands all over with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub. Dry your hands well.
  • To put the mask on, cover your mouth and nose with the mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Tie it in place.
  • Once your mask is on, don’t touch it. If you do touch it, wash your hands all over with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Replace the mask with a new one if it gets damp. Do not reuse masks.
  • To remove the mask: undo the straps and remove the mask without touching the front of it. Put it straight in the rubbish. Wash your hands all over with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub. Dry your hands well.

View the fact sheet on how to use facemasks safely.