Quarantine Information for overseas travellers entering the ACT on government facilitated flights

Introduction to quarantine

Mandatory quarantine for international arrivals

All international passengers arriving at Canberra Airport must go into quarantine at a government approved accommodation facility for 14 days from the day of their arrival. This is required under the Public Health Act 1997. It is an offence not to comply with quarantine requirements, with fines up to $8,000 for people who do not comply.

Most COVID-19 cases detected in Australia are occurring in travellers returning from overseas. For this reason, returning travellers to Australia must undergo a mandatory quarantine period to prevent onward transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

You will receive an invoice for your quarantine accommodation fee after the end of your quarantine period. The quarantine accommodation fee is a fixed cost which includes the cost of the hotel room, a standard food and meals cost, and other associated costs. More information is provided below and in the Quarantine Fees factsheet.

How long does mandatory quarantine last?

The quarantine period is 14 days from the day you arrive in the ACT. Your day of arrival is counted as day 0. This is because, for COVID-19, the incubation period (the time between getting infected and displaying symptoms) can last up to 14 days. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 during your quarantine period, you may be required to stay in isolation for a longer period of time.

What does it mean to be in quarantine?

While you are in hotel quarantine, you must stay in your hotel room. ACT Health will contact you each day to check on your health and wellbeing. For your own safety, if we are unable to contact you, an ACT Health staff member or police officer will conduct a welfare check.

While in quarantine you need to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, or loss of smell or taste). If you develop symptoms, it is very important that you notify ACT Health and arrange to get tested for COVID-19.

While you are in quarantine, you must not:

  • have any visitors
  • visit other people who are staying in the hotel
  • go to the hotel lobby, gym or any other shared spaces within the hotel
  • leave to go to your home, work, school or any public areas
  • travel on public transport, or in a taxi or rideshare, unless you have a specific exemption.

While you are in quarantine you can:

  • go onto the balcony of your hotel room. If you want to speak with people on adjoining balconies, you must remain at least 1.5 metres apart.
  • use mobile phones or computers to keep in touch with family and friends.

Can I apply for an exemption to quarantine?

You may apply for an exemption to hotel quarantine on compassionate or medical grounds. The circumstances of each application will be carefully considered to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community or the health system.

To apply for an exemption, please email COVID.Exemptions@act.gov.au. This email should include who you are, where you are currently undertaking quarantine, the reasons for requesting an exemption, where you propose to stay for the remainder of your quarantine period, and how you plan to get there.

If your exemption request involves leaving the ACT to quarantine in another Australian state or territory, you will also need to seek an exemption from the jurisdiction you intend to travel to.

Quarantine fees

Read more about quarantine fees here.

Health and medical information

What if I have a medical emergency while in hotel quarantine?

If you have severe symptoms (such as difficulty breathing or chest pain) please call triple zero (000). Tell the ambulance staff that you are in hotel quarantine after recently returning from overseas.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Once in your hotel room, you do not need to wear a mask if you do not have any symptoms. You will need to wear a mask when opening the door to any person, such as an ACT Health staff member. Masks will be supplied to you at check-in to the hotel.

If you develop symptoms and there are family members sharing your hotel room with you, you should wear a mask inside the hotel room. Young children who cannot tolerate a mask do not need to wear one.

Do I have to be tested for COVID-19 while I am in quarantine?

Under the Public Health Act 1997, all returned overseas travellers must undergo a COVID-19 test prior to leaving quarantine. This is to ensure that it is safe to return to your home community, because a small number of people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms but can still spread the disease to others.

On day 10-12 of your quarantine period, ACT Health will arrange for nurses to visit you in your hotel

room to perform this test for you and your family members. You will be informed in advance of what day your test will be done. If you do not undertake this COVID-19 test, your quarantine period will be extended by an additional 10 days (to 24 days in total).

In addition, it is ACT Health policy that you also have a COVID-19 test on day 0-2 of your quarantine period. This can help to protect others who you are quarantining with. Additionally, if you have COVID-19 and don’t have any symptoms, having a test on day 0-2 of your quarantine period may prevent a longer period of isolation, because your diagnosis will be made earlier in you quarantine period. ACT Health will arrange for nurses to visit you in your hotel room to perform the test. You will be notified which day this will occur.

Following each test, ACT Health will provide you with your results within 1-2 days. If you test positive for COVID-19, ACT Health will give you advice on what you need to do and how to access medical support.

What should I do if I develop symptoms of COVID-19 during quarantine?

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell and loss of sense of taste. Less common symptoms are runny nose/blocked nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

If you develop any of these symptoms, please notify ACT Health. Direct contact details for ACT Health will be provided when you arrive into the ACT. ACT Health will assist you with arranging an assessment and COVID-19 testing in your hotel room. This will be done free of charge.

What if I test positive and am quarantining as part of a family group?

If you or a member of your family group develop symptoms and test positive for COVID-19, it may be necessary to separate your family group to protect other members of the family. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What if I need a medical assessment and/or prescription?

There are several options to access a non-urgent medical assessment and/or to get a prescription:

  • If you are currently enrolled with Medicare, you can contact a General Practitioner (GP) either locally or interstate to ask for a telehealth consultation (over the phone assessment). We encourage you to contact your own GP, even if interstate, if you have one. You may be charged a consultation fee. If you are in a vulnerable patient category, you should be bulk billed for the consultation.
  • You can locate a local GP in Canberra, including after-hours GPs, by visiting the ACT Government “Find a health service” webpage at http://findahealthservice.act.gov.au and selecting “General Practitioner”.
  • The Weston Creek Respiratory Assessment Centre Nursing/Medical Support Service is also available to provide medical assessment if you are unwell. They can also assist to arrange a consultation with a GP for telehealth prescribing. Please note priority will be given to assessment of people who are unwell. Contact details for this service will be provided when you arrive in the ACT. This service is available 7.30am–10pm, daily. This is a free service and you do not need to be enrolled in Medicare to access this service.
  • The Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Service (CALMS) can provide medical care outside of business hours for review of nonurgent medical conditions. When contacting CALMS, tell them that you are currently in hotel quarantine for COVID-19 and request a telehealth consultation. Where appropriate, it may be possible for a CALMS doctor to visit you in the hotel. CALMS can be contacted on 1300 422 567 from 6.30pm to 8.30am on weekdays and over the weekends from 6pm Friday to 8.30am Monday. You do not need to be enrolled in Medicare to access CALMS. For further information, you can visit their website: http://calms.net.au/.

A GP can arrange for your prescription to be sent to a local pharmacy that can offer hotel delivery. You will then need to phone the pharmacy to arrange payment, and the pharmacy can deliver your medicines to the hotel. If you are contacting a GP in another state or territory, they will need to advise whether electronic prescriptions are enabled by local state/territory legislation. You will be provided with details of pharmacies that will deliver to the hotel when you arrive in the ACT.

What if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant, please ensure you advise ACT Health of this when you arrive. ACT Health will assist in coordinating any antenatal care you may require during your quarantine period.

If you need further information or advice, you can contact the COVID-19 Pregnancy and Early Parenting Support helpline on (02) 5124 1775 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. You will need to leave a message with your name and contact number, and someone will return your call.

If you are pregnant and have concerns about your health while you are in quarantine, please follow the advice above to seek medical assessment. If you have severe symptoms or if you are unable to get a medical assessment quickly, please call triple zero (000). Tell them that you are in hotel quarantine after recently returning from overseas.

Medicare information

If you are a permanent resident of Australia who has lived overseas for more than 12 months, you will no longer be enrolled in Medicare. Further information about how to re-enrol for Medicare is available on the Services Australia website.

If you are an Australian citizen but have lived overseas for more than 5 years, you will need to contact Medicare to extend your enrolment in Medicare. Further information is available on the Services Australia website.

Information for families

Supporting children in quarantine

For parents and carers, talk clearly and calmly with children about what is happening.

  • It is common for children to become more demanding of parents and seek increased attachment during times of uncertainty. The unfamiliar surroundings of your hotel room may increase feelings of stress in your child.  Creative activities like drawing, imaginative play with toys (or utilising the child safe items available in your hotel room) and singing can provide your child with opportunities to express and release feelings such as fear and sadness.
  • Help create some structure in their daily routine (even if this is different to their usual). This could include learning, playing and relaxing. Where possible, maintain schoolwork, study, and routine activities (e.g. mealtimes and bedtimes).
  • Limit how much they access distressing news, social media or images, to prevent anxiety.
  • Use video technology to help children maintain social connection with friends and family.
  • Remember that children often take their emotional cues from the important adults in their lives, so how adults respond to the situation is very important.
  • You can also contact the COVID-19 Pregnancy and Early Parenting Support helpline on (02) 5124 1775 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. You will need to leave a message with your name and contact number, and someone will return your call.

Supporting young people/teenagers in quarantine

  • Reflect on how you have coped with difficult situations in the past. Identifying personal strategies can help you cope with your current situation. Remember your time in quarantine will pass and it’s OK to feel frustrated, angry, sad or trapped.
  • Although technology is a useful and necessary tool during quarantine, try to incorporate some screen-free time in your hotel room. Constant visual stimulation can make it difficult to relax and to fall asleep. Try playing some soothing music and have periods of time without television, phones and tablets. Watch the scenery from your hotel room – count birds, cars or people on the street. Engaging with the environment outside of your hotel window and balcony can help to break up your day.
  • If you are quarantining with a teenager be mindful this situation may be more difficult. Teens are in a pivotal developmental stage where they may seek independence from their family and prioritise connection with peers. Try to find compromise within the restrictive circumstances you are currently in. Additional support and information about teen brain development can be found online or in podcasts such as ABC’s ‘Parental as Anything’.

Useful resources for families

  • Online books for children
    An online resource that provides free access for up to 30 days - it has an endless supply of books for all ages, and many of them have the feature to read aloud. An email address is needed to activate it.
  • Online videos and story time
    You can visit the Libraries ACT vimeo site for an ample supply of Giggle & Wiggle sessions (song and rhyme times for babies and toddlers) and Online Story Times (mostly for 3-5 year olds)
  • Tips for helping children during COVID-19  
    This curated selection of resources will assist parents and carers to best support their children and reduce worry and distress. It contains videos, factsheets and tips about what you can expect and how you can help children cope.
  • Exercise right for children/young people
Mental Health and Wellbeing

What are some ways to maintain good mental health during quarantine?

  • During the COVID-19 outbreak you may experience a range of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that cause you to feel stressed and worried. Don’t underestimate your ability to cope. There are many things you can do to maintain your wellbeing during this time.
  • Focus on healthy eating and maintain a good sleep pattern.
  • Where possible incorporate some physical activity in each day in your hotel room or balcony. There are fitness apps and YouTube videos you can download with suggestions for exercises to do in a small space.
  • Talk with family and friends about ways you can support each other.
  • Limit how much time you are spending accessing news and other media about COVID-19. Keeping informed about what is happening is important but constantly reading, listening or watching the news can make you feel more distressed and less able to cope.
  • Some members of our community will struggle more than others. Technology can really help to keep connected with others – phone calls, emails, social media are some ways you can connect.
  • These are difficult times, so try to be kind to yourself and others. At this time, none of us have all the answers and we have to live with uncertainty, which can be very difficult at times.
  • Use credible sources to get information (such as those listed at the end of this document).
  • Remember that this is a temporary situation. As a community and a nation, we can all help keep our communities safe.

How can ACT Health support me and my family?

ACT Health has a Wellbeing Team of health professionals available to provide support and psychological care while you are in quarantine.

If you have a history of mental health issues, are experiencing anxiety, have difficult family circumstances or find coping with children in quarantine challenging, the Wellbeing team may be able to help support you.

Please notify the ACT Health Officer that contacts you each day if you would like support from the Wellbeing Team and they can make a referral.

When to seek additional support

If you experience any of the symptoms below, please seek professional help.

  • Unable to do simple day-to-day tasks or take pleasure from the things you usually enjoy;
  • Feeling a loss of hope or interest in the future;
  • Feeling aggressive and out of control;
  • Feeling anxious, panicky, and experiencing difficulties in calming yourself;
  • Feeling like you want to avoid conversations with people;
  • Feeling excessive guilt; or
  • Experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others or ending your life.

The following services can provide immediate assistance

  • Canberra Health Services Access Mental Health 1800 629 354 - Access Mental Health offer mental health services that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These services give you access to assessment and treatment services and offer advice and information on a range of mental health issues.
  • Domestic Violence Crisis Service (02) 6280 0900 or 1800 RESPECT - Australia’s national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling, information and referral service. Providing free and confidential support 24hours a day, every day of the year.
  • Lifeline 13 11 14 - national charity providing all Australian experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
  • BeyondBlue 1300 224 636 - provides information and support to help Australians achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
  • MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 - Telephone and online counselling service for men.
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 – nationwide service that provides 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide.
  • Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 - free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
  • QLife 1800 184 527 - is Australia’s first nationally-orientated counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI)
  • National Coronavirus Hotline 1800 020 080 - If you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). Operates 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Further information

Food and other supplies

How do I get food and meals?

The ACT Government will provide you with some basic items and an allowance to purchase food while you are in quarantine. These are included in your fixed quarantine fee and will be supplied to you at check-in to the hotel. Details of how to order groceries and meals using your allowance will be provided when you arrive in the ACT.

If you wish to make additional purchases while in quarantine, above the allowance you are given, or from other providers, you will need to pay these costs at the time of making the purchases.

The ACT Government has resources available to help you to make healthier food choices. These can be accessed at https://www.act.gov.au/healthyliving/healthy-eating-websites-and-apps.

How do I get infant food, infant formula, creams, wipes and nappies whilst in quarantine?

Some nappies and baby food items are available through the provider that is used for your grocery allowance. If your child or children require an emergency supply of items that are not included, please let ACT Health know and they can be dropped off at your hotel.

You may also purchase additional items from supermarkets and pharmacies for delivery to hotel reception at your own cost.

How do I get toiletries and other personal items?

Some personal hygiene items are available through the provider that is used for your grocery allowance.

You may also purchase additional products and branded items from supermarkets and pharmacies for delivery to the hotel reception at your own cost.

What isn’t supplied

The ACT Government will not facilitate the purchasing of any of the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes, tobacco, or any other smoking products
  • Gratuities
  • In room movies
  • Laundry/dry cleaning, unless you do not have access to a washing machine or dryer
  • Phone usage
  • Minibar
Hotel services and exercise

What should I do with my rubbish?

Please place your rubbish in a plastic bag and tie the bag securely. Place the bag of rubbish outside the room and notify the hotel reception that you have rubbish that needs collection. If you need additional plastic bags for your rubbish, please contact hotel reception.

How do I do my laundry?

You can use the washing machine and dryer in your hotel room or apartment. If you have any problems with using these, please contact hotel reception.

What if there is an evacuation at the hotel?

In the unlikely event that there is an evacuation at the hotel you are staying at (e.g. due to a fire alarm), you and everyone in your family must wear a surgical mask to proceed outside your room. Young children who cannot tolerate the mask do not need to wear one. Masks will be provided to you when you arrive in the ACT.

You must follow the instructions of hotel staff and any emergency services personnel. You must always remain 1.5 metres away from other people (except the family members that you are sharing a hotel suite with).

How can I get exercise?

It is important to try and get some physical activity each day. We recognise that this is difficult in a confined space. If possible, you can do some exercises in your hotel suite, or on the balcony. There are fitness apps you can download with suggestions for exercises to do in a small space.

Useful exercise links

Leaving Quarantine

What happens when my quarantine period finishes?

Your quarantine period will end at 11:59pm on day 14 of your quarantine period, noting that the day of your arrival is counted as day 0 of your mandatory quarantine period.

ACT Health will provide you with the clearance necessary to end your mandatory quarantine period. This will include a face to face health check by a Public Health Officer on day 14 of your quarantine period.

Exit letter

If you test negative for COVID-19 and do not display any symptoms relating to COVID-19, ACT Health will provide you with an ‘exit letter’. The letter will be provided to you on day 14 of your quarantine period. The letter will state that you have returned to Australia from overseas and fulfilled the 14 day quarantine requirement in accordance with the Public Health Act 1997.

If you test positive for COVID-19 during your quarantine period or you are found to be unwell during the health check on day 14, your isolation period may be extended. You will be provided with an exit letter when you are cleared to leave isolation.

Quarantine fees

From 5 August 2020 all returned travellers must pay for their hotel quarantine. The quarantine accommodation fee is a fixed cost which includes the cost of the hotel room, a standard food and meals cost, and other associated costs.

Prior to check out of quarantine, you will receive an invoice from the ACT Government. You will have 30 days to pay the invoice and the due date will be stated on the invoice. For more information, please see the Quarantine Fees page.

Travel home

You are responsible for arranging your own travel home at the end of your quarantine period.

Please note that other States and Territories may have additional quarantine requirements that may be imposed after arrival. Please check relevant State and Territory websites for up to date

information on border restrictions and quarantine requirements.

The check-out time at the end of your quarantine period (on day 15) will be in accordance with hotel policy.

Staff working in hotel quarantine

A government-facilitated flight (GFF) for returning Australians arrives in Canberra on Thursday 26 November.

The ACT is strengthening its already robust procedures to protect workers in the Hotel Quarantine program. These improvements are based on learnings from Victoria and South Australia and the national Halton Review of Hotel Quarantine.

What are the strengthened measures?

The new measures introduce more screening for hotel quarantine workers.

‘SCan: safeguarding Canberrans’ is a trial surveillance program, which includes a daily symptom check-in and regular testing for COVID-19

This trial aims to detect any COVID-19 cases entering the ACT as early as possible. It will help prevent any wider spread of the virus into the ACT community.

‘SCan: safeguarding Canberrans’

How will the SCAN trial work?

Who will take part?

Staff who are associated with the Hotel Quarantine program will take part, including hotel staff and staff from ACT Policing, Australian Defence Force, ACT Health’s Public Health Emergency Coordination Centre, Balfrans and the Canberra Health Services’ Clinical Health Emergency Control Centre.

Unforeseen circumstances may require additional workers to register and participate as the trial progresses.


Staff will register via a QR code or web link and complete a brief survey.

They will also be asked about additional employment. This is important information to help ACT Health work with them, and their employers, to support them to continue working safely in both roles.

Daily text messages

Each staff member will receive an automatic text message every day until 14 days after their last day working in the Hotel Quarantine program.

The text message will ask them to report any COVID-19 symptoms. If they report relevant symptoms, they will be asked to not attend work, get tested and isolate at home until they receive their test result. Their family, friends, and colleagues do not need to get tested or self-isolate unless they have symptoms, in line with current COVID-19 recommendations.

7-day testing

Assuming they have not shown any symptoms and been tested, each staff member will receive a reminder to be tested every 7 days. Testing will continue until at least 7 days after their last rostered shift in Hotel Quarantine.

If tested when there are no symptoms, the staff member will not need to isolate at home until they get the test result, and can work as per usual.

If the test result is positive, ACT Health will contact the staff member to advise what they need to do, including  to identify contacts who may have been exposed, and give advice on what these contacts are required to do  Anyone unable to safely self-isolate at home will be able to access government-funded accommodation. ACT Health will work with the staff member and employer regarding leave and potential financial hardship payments.

Is it compulsory to register?

SCan is a trial. It is an extra safety measure to protect staff and their families and to support the ACT to combat COVID-19.

Staff who do not wish to participate will discuss their options with their manager.

How will the information be used?

Responses to the daily text message survey will be monitored for completion and response rates.

Test results will also be monitored, as per usual ACT Health processes.

A review will be undertaken at the completion of the reception of this flight.

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: November 26 2020