Isolation information for people with confirmed COVID-19

Who can be isolated at home?

If you have confirmed COVID-19, your doctor or other healthcare professional will provide advice on whether you are suitable for home isolation. This decision will take into account your health, home situation, and if you have appropriate access to care. Home isolation arrangements will be considered for people with confirmed COVID-19 who are in the following circumstances:

  • you are well enough to receive care at home
  • you have appropriate caregivers at home
  • there is a separate bedroom where you can recover without sharing an immediate space with others
  • you have access to food and other necessities as well as psychological and social support
  • you have easy access to medical care if your condition gets worse
  • you (and anyone who lives in the same home as you) have access to the recommended personal protective equipment for infection control (e.g., gloves, face mask, cleaning agents)
  • you do not live with household members who may be at increased risk of complications from COVID-19 (e.g. people over 70 years old, people who are immunocompromised or people who have chronic medical conditions).

To implement these changes in the ACT, new Public Health Emergency Directions are now in force. These instruments have been put in place under the Public Health Act 1997. You can view the relevant instrument on the ACT Legislation Register.

  1. Public Health (Self-Isolation) Emergency Direction 2020

What does it mean to be isolated at home?

Being isolated at home means that you must stay at home. You cannot leave home to go to work, school, or public areas (such as shops, cafes or restaurants). You cannot travel on public transport, or in a taxi or rideshare. You must not have visitors at your home.

You will need to remain isolated at home until Communicable Disease Control (CDC) at ACT Health advise that it is safe to come out of isolation. CDC will arrange any necessary testing prior to this. CDC will contact you regularly during your isolation period.

See advice on what to do if your symptoms get worse while you are in isolation.

Do I need to wear a mask inside my home?

You should wear a surgical mask while you are inside your home when other people are present. If you cannot wear a surgical mask, the people who live with you should not be in the same room as you, and should wear a mask if they have to enter your room.

What about other people in my home?

The people you live with and other close contacts will also need to be isolated at home. Their isolation period will be for 14 days after their last contact with you while you were infectious. They will be contacted by the ACT Health Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team and notified of their need to self-isolate. CDC will contact your close contacts by SMS every day to check on them. If they develop symptoms, CDC will advise on how they can get tested for COVID-19.

Only essential household members who are caring for you should stay in the home. Other people living in the home should consider staying elsewhere if possible. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions should stay away.

If you are sharing the home with others, you should stay in a different room from them, or be separated as much as possible. You should use a separate bathroom, if available. You should avoid shared or communal areas and wear a surgical mask when moving through these areas. If another person in the household has to enter your room, or you are in the same room as another person, you should wear a surgical mask.

If the above conditions cannot be met, your household contacts will be required to complete an additional 14-day quarantine period from the date you are released from isolation.

Can I go outside?

If you live in a private house, it is safe for you to go outside into your garden or courtyard. If you live in an apartment, it is safe to go onto your balcony or a private courtyard, if you have one.

When does isolation end?

You can only stop isolating when clearance is given by a doctor or other authorised medical professional. This will usually be done by ACT Health.

How do I keep the people I live with safe from the infection?

You should remain in a separate room from other people in your home as much as possible, and wear a surgical mask if you need to be in the same room as another person.

Practising general hygiene is the best defence against the spread of all respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus.

This includes:

  • Washing your hands with liquid soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds. Drying hands on paper towel not sharing hand towels.
  • Cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if your hands are not visibly soiled. Covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Using liquid soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • Washing your hands before handling food, before eating, before entering rooms and before touching other peoples’ possessions.
  • Washing your hands after using the toilet.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoiding close contact with others.
  • Coughing and sneezing into your elbow or directly into a tissue, throwing the tissue into a lined bin, and washing your hands.
  • Not sharing towels and bedding with other people in your home.
  • Not sharing cutlery, dishes, utensils and drinking glasses, and making sure that after use they are cleaned thoroughly with detergent and water or in the dishwasher.
  • Making sure shared spaces in the home have good airflow by opening a window or using air conditioning - if the weather allows.
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly, using detergent and water, followed by a household disinfectant or diluted bleach solution (see detailed cleaning advice below).

What if my symptoms get worse?

If you have a regular GP, you should contact them and request a telehealth consultation if you are concerned about your COVID-19 symptoms, or if you have other concerns about your health. Do not visit your GP in person while you are in isolation.

If you don’t have a regular GP or can’t get an appointment with your GP, you can contact CDC on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours. CDC will advise you on what to do next.

If you have difficulty breathing or are seriously unwell and it is an emergency, call triple zero (000) immediately. Alert ambulance staff to your COVID-19 diagnosis.

I am a caregiver or household member of someone with COVID-19. How can I prevent infection?

  • Clean your hands often and thoroughly with liquid soap and water and wash for at least 20 to 30 seconds. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol if your hands are not visibly dirty, particularly if you are in contact with the case or with items handled by them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands.
  • If the weather allows, make sure shared spaces in the home have good airflow, by opening a window or using air conditioning.
  • Wear a disposable surgical face mask, plastic apron, and gloves when you touch or have contact with the person’s used tissues, blood, body fluids and/or secretions (such as sweat, saliva, sputum, nasal mucous, vomit, urine or diarrhoea). Throw out disposable face masks, aprons, and gloves after using them and do not reuse them. Clean your hands immediately after removing your gloves, then again after removing apron and face mask.

I am a caregiver or household member of someone with COVID-19. Are there any special cleaning requirements?

Frequently touched surfaces

  • Use gloves and a face mask when cleaning. Clean all frequently touched surfaces regularly throughout the day. This includes kitchen benches, tabletops, fridge door handle, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, light switches, phones, remote controls, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.
  • Clean using detergent and water, followed by a household disinfectant or diluted bleach solution, or use a combination detergent/disinfectant product. Always clean and dry surfaces before applying bleach or disinfectant.
  • Clean any surfaces that may have blood, body fluids and/or secretions or excretions on them using disposable kitchen towel as above, followed with a diluted bleach solution. A bleach-based disinfectant (1000 ppm) can be made by adding 1 tablespoon of bleach to 4 cups of cold water. Mix this disinfectant solution daily and dispose of what you do not use at the end of each day. If using bleach as disinfectant, apply to surface, leave for 10 minutes and then rinse with clean water.
  • Read the labels of cleaning products and follow recommendations on product labels. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning products including precautions you should take when applying the product. Make sure the area is well ventilated. Wear disposable gloves and ideally a plastic apron when cleaning surfaces, clothing or bedding, dispose of the gloves and apron in the bin when finished and wash your hands.

Laundry

  • Wash laundry thoroughly. Wash and dry with the warmest temperatures recommended on clothing labels.
  • If possible, this should be above 65 degrees Celsius. Laundry sanitisers can also be used.
  • Follow directions on labels of laundry products. If possible, tumble dry and iron using the highest setting compatible with the fabric.

Disposal of contaminated items 

  • Place all used disposable gloves, gowns, face masks, and other contaminated items in a lined container with the plastic rubbish bag tied when full. Dispose of it with other general household waste. Wash your hands immediately after handling these items.

How do I shop for food?

You may need more groceries whilst you are being isolated at home. If the people you live with are unable to get groceries, or if you live alone, friends or family living outside of your household can deliver groceries to your home. They should leave the groceries at your door.

Some grocery stores offer home delivery if groceries are ordered online, including the main supermarket chains. The delivery instructions should state that groceries should be left at your front door. If your groceries must be signed for, someone else who is not in isolation should do this.

How do I get my medication?

If you know you will run out of your medications while you need to remain isolated at home, you should arrange ahead of time for your medications to be delivered to your home, by a family member, friend or your usual pharmacy.

Tell them you are isolating yourself at home and to notify you when they arrive at your home but to leave the medications at your front door.

How do I maintain my mental health during isolation? 

Home isolation can be distressing. Suggestions for looking after your mental health and wellbeing include:

  • Reading information about COVID-19 from reliable sources, such as the ACT Health website.
  • Talking to the other members of the family about the infection. Understanding COVID-19 can reduce anxiety.
  • Maintaining a daily routine, as much as possible.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude. Think about how you’ve managed in other difficult situations and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation as well. Home isolation is only temporary.
  • Reassuring young children using age-appropriate language.
  • Considering each other’s needs. Make sure everyone can have some time alone during the day.
  • Accepting that conflict and arguments may occur. Try to resolve them as soon as possible. For young children, distraction may help.
  • Staying in touch with family members and friends by phone, email or social media.
  • Exercising regularly as it helps to reduce stress. Options include yoga, floor exercises, dancing, exercise DVDs or online videos, walking around the backyard, and use of a stationary exercise bike.
  • Opportunities for exercising out of the home remain important, however, must comply with the public gathering requirements and existing restrictions.

For more information, see ACT Mental health services.

How do I reduce boredom during isolation?

Being confined to your home can cause boredom, stress and conflict.

Suggestions to reduce boredom include:

  • Arrange with your employer to work from home, if possible.
  • If you have school-aged children who are isolated at home, ask their school to provide assignments, worksheets and homework by post or email.
  • Don’t rely too much on technology or television.
  • Treat home isolation as an opportunity to do those things you enjoy but usually don’t have time for such as excercising, reading, drawing, board games and craft.

Further assistance for people in isolation

If you have more questions or need help while isolated at home, you can contact:

  • National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. This line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Communicable Disease Control, ACT Health on (02) 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours.
acknowledgement icon
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: April 07 2020