How COVID-19 spreads
The virus can spread from person to person through:
- close contact with an infectious person, including in the 24 hours before they started showing symptoms
- contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
- touching objects or surfaces that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person and then touching your mouth or face.
COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is no existing immunity in our community.
This means that COVID-19 could spread widely and quickly.
Practising good hygiene
Good hygiene practices mean you should:
- wash your hands regularly for 20 to 30 seconds
- use hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available
- use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- when you cough and sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough into your elbow
- throw used tissues into a bin immediately and wash your hands.
Hand sanitiser does not replace washing your hands after using the bathroom.
For downloadable posters and resources, visit the Signage and factsheets page .
Physical (social) distancing
Physical distancing means separating yourself from other people as much as possible when you’re in public places.
It can be very effective in slowing the spread of infectious diseases.
Physical distancing means you should:
- stay home whenever possible
- keep 1.5 metres between yourself and other people
- avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing other people
- use ‘tap and go’ payments instead of cash
- limit visits to people at risk. Many facilities, including hospitals and aged care, have rules and restrictions about visitors. Please check before you visit
- follow the current restrictions on groups and gatherings
- Seek medical attention if you feel unwell and develop any symptoms of COVID-19 .
Workplaces should have physical distancing measures in place. Visit the Business and Work page for sector-specific advice.
It is important to stay socially connected, even while physically distancing.
Stay connected with others by phone, email, social media and online work platforms when possible.
Keep your home clean
- Follow good hygiene advice
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces such as benchtops, desks and doorknobs
- Clean and disinfect frequently used objects such as mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes
- Vacuum carpets and mop hard floors regularly
- Increase the amount of fresh air available by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
- When cleaning, use a detergent-based product to physically clean surfaces then apply a disinfectant product or use a combination detergent and disinfectant product.
If someone is sick, wash their laundry separately in a hot wash (greater than 65°C for 10 mins).
You can also add a laundry sanitiser to the wash cycle water (along with the detergent).
Follow the directions on all laundry product labels.
Always wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
In general, if you are healthy you do not need to wear a mask.
This is especially true given there is no evidence of community transmission in the ACT.
Masks help contain infectious droplets from sick people to keep those around them safe.
You can use a mask if you are unwell with respiratory symptoms like coughing and sneezing.
You should use a mask if you are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
If you are in quarantine or self-isolation, wear a surgical (single use) face mask if you need to leave your home for medical attention.
Wear a surgical (single use) face mask if you have symptoms and are in the same room as other people in your home.
Masks are recommended for healthcare workers when they are assessing, testing and treating patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
For more information on the use of masks, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.
For more information for health workers, visit the ACT Health website.
Personal protective equipment for the community and allied health services
The community sector plays an important role supporting people and families in the ACT.
The health and wellbeing of community sector staff and clients is our first priority.
The ACT Government’s Community Support Package will supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
This PPE supply is to help services and support vulnerable Canberrans.
Requests for PPE can be submitted through the PPE online request form.
More information for people with a disability is on the Community Services Directorate website.
This information is relevant for:
- people with a disability
- disability support providers, including NDIS
- self-managing participants who use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Supplies of PPE are limited due to the pandemic.
We will prioritise requests based on advice from the ACT Chief Health Office and your needs.
If you can access PPE through the National Medical stockpile, we encourage you to do so.
If you have any questions, please email the Community Services Directorate.
Advice for at risk groups
People at more risk of serious illness and complications from COVID-19 are:
- people aged 70 years and older
- people aged 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
- people with compromised immune systems
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people older than 50 years with chronic health conditions.
You should take into account your age and any existing chronic health conditions before deciding to take part in activities outside of your home and whether these can be done safely.
Be selective in who visits your home, including how many visitors at any given time and for how long.
Consider having groceries or medications delivered, or ask a friend or relative to pick up supplies.
When anyone enters your home, including other members of your household, ask them to wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
If you need support to go out, it’s best to have only one support person where possible.
Limit your physical interactions with others for your own—and their—safety.
In particular, avoid contact with people who are sick.
This does not mean you need to limit social interactions.
Try using use phone calls, emails, and social media to connect with friends and family.
For further information on maintaining good mental health, please visit the Mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 page.
If you are working, work from home as much as possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
If you can’t work from home, discuss with your doctor the risk of continuing to go to work.
If you need medical help for routine medical issues, please contact your GP.
Visit the Community Services Directorate website for information about the support available to people at risk.
For all emergency medical issues (chest pains, difficulty breathing, severe fever), contact 000.
The Seniors Information Line run by the Council of The Ageing (COTA) ACT has staff to listen to your concerns and provide further advice.
Call the Seniors Information Line on (02) 6282 3777 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
You can also visit the Council on the Ageing website.
You can also download the COVID-19 Factsheet – Retirement Villages.
People with chronic conditions
For more information about chronic conditions, visit the Australian Department of Health website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities already experience a burden of disease much greater than other Australians.
Download the How to support our mob and communities factsheet for more information on COVID-19.
Visit the Community Services Directorate website for information on the services available to help you stay COVID safe.
This new public health initiative is used alongside manual contact tracing, testing and physical distancing.
The app uses mobile phone technology to automate aspects of the contact tracing that health officials already do manually.
Food relief and other community support
For more information about the support available to you, please visit the Access help page.