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 immuno-compromised 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.
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 need to be quarantined at home. Their quarantine 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 quarantine. 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 need to remain separated from other individuals in your home. This means that you need to:
- stay in a separate bedroom
- use a separate bathroom
- avoid all shared or communal areas
- wear a surgical mask if you need to move briefly through any common areas
- wear a surgical mask if another person in the house has to enter your room, or if you are briefly in the same room as another person.
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 you are cleared for release from isolation 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. If you need to be in the same room as another person, or pass through any common areas, you should wear a surgical mask.
Practising general hygiene is the best defence against the spread of all respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus.
- wash your hands regularly:
- use liquid soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds, dry your hands on paper towel, and do not share hand towels
- you can clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol (60-80%) if your hands are not visibly soiled. This involves covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry
- if your hands are visibly dirty, you should use liquid soap and water
- wash your hands before handling food, before eating, before entering rooms and before touching other peoples’ possessions
- wash your hands after using the toilet.
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- avoid close contact with others
- cough and sneeze into your elbow or directly into a tissue, throw the tissue immediately after used into a lined bin, and then wash your hands
- do not share towels and bedding with other people in your home
- do your own laundry, in a separate load from other members of your household. Wash items in a hot wash (greater than 65°C) with detergent OR wash in a cooler water temperature and add a sanitiser (such as Napisan) to the wash water along with the detergent. If someone else needs to do your laundry, they should follow the instructions below in the cleaning requirements section
- do not share cutlery, dishes, utensils or drinking glasses. Make sure that after use these items are cleaned thoroughly with detergent and hot water or in the dishwasher
- make sure shared spaces in the home have good airflow by opening a window or using air conditioning - if the weather allows
- clean 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 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 the Weston Creek Respiratory Assessment Clinic (RAC) for advice about your symptoms. This service is available for all patients who have confirmed COVID-19. The contact number will be provided by CDC when you are first confirmed to have COVID-19. You can call the Weston Creek RAC between 7:30am and 10pm, 7 days a week, including public holidays. You will be able to talk with a health care worker over the phone who 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?
- remain in a separate room from the person with COVID-19 whenever possible
- 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%-80% 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
- follow the cleaning requirements outlined below.
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 25millilitres 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.
- wear gloves if you need to handle laundry that the person has used (e.g. clothing or bedding) and hold the laundry away from your clothes
- wash items in a separate load in a hot wash (greater than 65°C) with detergent OR wash in a cooler water temperature and add a sanitiser e.g. Napisan, to the wash water along with the detergent.Hands must be washed after handling laundry items and after removing gloves.If possible, tumble dry and iron using the highest setting compatible with the fabric
- if laundry is soiled, follow advice below for handling soiled items (see below).
- wear gloves if you need to handle dishes (e.g. crockery, glassware) that the person has used. Used dishes should be cleaned thoroughly with detergent and hot water or in the dishwasher.
- if 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), you must wear a disposable surgical face mask, plastic apron and gloves. 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.
Disposal of contaminated items
- place all used disposable gloves, gowns, face masks, and other contaminated items into a container lined with a plastic rubbish bag. Tie/seal the bag and dispose of it into the 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. Most stores offer contactless delivery. 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 and can have impacts on your mental health and wellbeing. You may feel frustrated, distressed or overwhelmed in coping with isolation and being separated from family and friends. There are things we can try that might help with these feelings.
- Keeping positive really helps. Remind yourself about how you have coped with other challenges, as this can reassure you that you have the resilience to cope with this situation.
- Try to establish a daily routine as much as possible.
- Focus on healthy eating and maintaining a good sleep pattern.
- If you have children in your household, speak calmly to them about what is happening and help create some structure in their daily routine (even if this is different from their usual). Limiting how much they access distressing news or images will also help them to cope better.
- Remain connected with family and friends by phone, email and social media.
- We all benefit from exercise. It can be more challenging to do this at home, but there are different things you can try such as floor exercises, dancing, yoga, exercise DVDs or online videos. Take advantage of any outdoor space you have. A backyard or balcony can be a great space for exercise.
- 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.
For more information, please visit our page on Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19.
If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing during your isolation period, you can contact ACT Health through the COVID-19 helpline on (02) 6207 7244. ACT Health can refer you to our COVID-19 Wellbeing Team for further support.
If you need immediate mental health support, please contact one of the service providers listed on the Get Immediate Support page. If your situation is life threatening, please call triple zero (000). Be sure to notify them that you are in quarantine.
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 exercising, reading, drawing, board games and craft.
What if I need financial help because I can’t go to work?
Casual and part-time workers have been among the hardest hit with widespread unemployment across a range of sectors.
A COVID-19 Hardship Isolation Payment for workers experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic has been created to support Canberrans who are unable to temporarily work under a COVID-19 direction or health guidance.
Workers will be eligible payments of up to $1,500 depending on an individual’s circumstances (such as available sick leave through their employer).
For more information on the initiative, including eligibility and how to apply, please read the COVID-19 Hardship Isolation Payment Guidelines.
If you believe you meet the eligibility requirements please complete the application form on the Access Canberra website.
Further assistance for people in isolation
If you have more questions or need help in isolation at home, you can contact the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 between 8am and 8pm daily.
For more contact options, see our Contact us page.