Your Health

About COVID-19

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can affect humans and animals. In humans, coronaviruses can cause mild illness, such as the common cold and gastrointestinal infections, as well as more severe illness, such as that caused by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

There is currently an outbreak of a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that is called ‘COVID-19’. COVID-19 causes a spectrum of illness, from mild to very severe. The outbreak started in a province of China and has spread to many other countries outside of China, leading to a pandemic. The virus can be spread from person to person, so good hygiene is very important in slowing the spread of infection.

More on the virus can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

Is there a cure or vaccine for COVID-19?

There are no vaccines that protect against COVID-19. There is also no specific treatment for COVID-19. For most people, symptoms will go away with time, and can be managed using medication to reduce the symptoms (such as fever, sore throat, and aches and pains). Some people may get serious complications as a result of COVID-19 and require care in hospital.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 causes a spectrum of illness including fever and/or respiratory symptoms.

The key symptoms are:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat

Less common symptoms are loss of smell, loss of taste, runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Current estimates of the time it takes for symptoms to develop after being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 range from 2-14 days.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

What is close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, as someone who has tested positive for the COVID-19 when that person was infectious.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

What is community transmission and local transmission?

Local transmission is where a person has acquired COVID-19 locally, whether a direct source can be identified or not.

Community transmission is where there are large numbers of local transmissions occurring where a direct source of exposure cannot be identified.

How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but early evidence suggests that it behaves like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (for example, type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

Find more on hygiene on our Protect Yourself webpage.

What's the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

For all information about the flu and COVID-19, including symptoms and advice about the flu vaccine, visit the flu and COVID-19 page.

Staying as healthy as possible

I think I might have COVID-19. What should I do?

You can find more information on testing and how to reduce the risk of transmission when you go to get tested on our Getting tested webpage.

More on COVID-19 can also be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

What's the best way to prevent spreading disease?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person, usually during close contact. This means practising good hygiene is the best defence against the spread of the virus.

Social distancing measures can also help to slow the spread of the virus within the population.

You can find more information on practising good hygiene and social distancing on the COVID-19 website.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

If you are healthy, you do not need to wear a mask.

You will find more information about face masks on our Protect Yourself page.

How can I reduce my risk of getting COVID-19?

We know that COVID-19 can spread from person-to-person. You can avoid catching or spreading all respiratory viruses, including coronavirus, practising good hygiene. It’s the best way to prevent spread of the virus.

More on COVID-19 can be found on the Australian Department of Health website.

How do I maintain the best hygiene?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person, usually during close contact. This means practising good hygiene is the best defence against the spread of the virus.

You can find more information on practising good hygiene on the Protect Yourself page.

Can I exercise outside if I’m alone?

Opportunities for exercising out of the home remain important, however, must comply with public gathering requirements and existing quarantine restrictions.

You can find more information on social distancing on our Protect Yourself page.

You can find guidelines about quarantine and self-isolation on the Quarantine and isolation page.

What should I do if I am not eligible for Medicare and need testing or treatment?

If you are not eligible for Medicare, you may already have travel or visa-specific health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance and you need to be tested for COVID-19, the test will be provided free of charge at one  of the ACT government’s Respiratory Assessment Clinics (the Weston Creek Walk-in Centre or the drive-through testing facility at EPIC).

If you don’t have health insurance and you become unwell with suspected COVID-19, public hospitals in the ACT will cover the cost of your diagnosis and treatment for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACT Government has put these arrangements to support people in the community who have no private health insurance or have no way to pay fund health care for COVID-19.

If you have any questions, or you are not eligible for Medicare and would like to apply for a refund for COVID-19 related health expenses billed from 21 January 2020 please contact the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 (between 8am - 8pm daily) for more information. If making an application for a refund, you will be provided with a form to complete and someone will contact you within 10 business days to process your application.

Is it safe to attend medical appointments in Canberra for non-COVID-19 related health care?

Yes, many health care providers across Canberra, including GP’s, mental health, emergency departments, allied health and diagnostic testing, are safe to attend. All health care providers have procedures in place to make sure physical distancing requirements are met, and they also offer alternatives to face-to-face appointments which take place online or over the phone. It’s important to continue to see your health care provider if you are unwell or have a chronic condition that is not related to COVID-19.

What is happening to emergency services?

In an emergency, call triple zero (000).

If you are feeling unwell you can call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222

You will find more about how our emergency services are adapting to COVID-19 at the ACT Emergency Services Agency website.

COVID-19 Surge Centre

  1. Why do we need this facility when case numbers are so low?

    As part of our COVID-19 planning, we have prepared for a surge in cases, where infections are increasing to the degree that our hospital system would quickly require additional capacity outside of the current ACT hospital system to meet demand.

    The ACT Government is partnering with Aspen Medical to deliver a temporary COVID-19 Surge Centre.

    The construction of the Centre is now complete and will be capable of full operations when needed. The Centre will be activated in a staged approach, with capacity to flex up and down as demand requires.

    The COVID-19 Surge Centre will only become operational if the ACT sees a surge in COVID-19 infections

  2. Where exactly has the COVID-19 Surge Centre been built?

    The temporary COVID-19 Surge Centre is located on Garran Oval to facilitate connections with existing facilities at Canberra Hospital.

    The facility will be removed, and Garran Oval will be remediated once the public health emergency has passed.

  3. How big is the facility? How many people does it accommodate?

    The facility is approximately 1700 square metres in size.

    The Centre will be activated in a staged approach, with capacity to flex up and down as demand requires. At full capacity it will have six resuscitation bays, 32 acute non-admitted treatment bays and 12 short stay overnight beds.

  4. Has the new facility been built to the same standard as the current ED at Canberra Hospital?

    This is a custom-made facility. It has been constructed with safe and durable materials to ensure effective short- and long-term usage. Insulation and a climate control system will be installed to provide safety and comfort for staff, patients and visitors.

  5. Will parking be available?

    Separate areas will be provided for staff and visitor parking, with designated areas available for ambulance drop-off and freight deliveries.

  6. How long will the COVID-19 Surge Centre remain on site?

    The COVID-19 Surge Centre is a temporary facility which will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency to respond to the pandemic. The facility will be remediated once the public health emergency has passed.

  7. Will visitors be allowed to enter the facility to see inpatients?

    No. As this is a COVID-19 treatment facility, there will be no visitors allowed, except under exceptional circumstances such as palliative care. Such visits would be carefully managed.

  8. Who will use the new facility?

    The facility is primarily for patients who are either confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19.

  9. Will the facility provide the same standard of clinical care as you would receive at one of the existing Emergency Departments?

    Yes. Qualified and experienced clinicians and support staff will provide high level care to those who need it.

  10. How will this facility be staffed?

    Aspen Medical has been contracted to provide the medical, nursing and clinical administration workforce for the COVID-19 Surge Centre. Aspen Medical will be provided with a three week lead in time to have the COVID-19 Surge Centre operational.

  11. When will the community be able to use the oval again?

    The COVID-19 Surge Centre is a temporary facility which will only be in place while the ACT is in a state of public health emergency to respond to the pandemic. The facility will be removed, and Garran Oval remediated once the COVID-19 public health threat has passed.

    Every health and safety control will be considered to ensure the oval will be fit for community use once the facility is dismantled.

  12. How will you manage traffic and parking?

    Should the facility become operational, we anticipate there may be increases to traffic around the hospital. This will be minimised through offering additional car parking spaces and strict traffic management protocols.

  13. Can I use the new carparks being constructed at Garran Oval?
  14. No. This parking will be used for staff and patient parking during the operation of the facility.

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: May 21 2020