Why do I need to self-quarantine if I’m well?
Some people who have COVID-19 may be infectious for a short period before they develop symptoms. This means that people with COVID-19 may be able to spread the disease to others, before they know that they are unwell.
For this reason, people who are at higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19 are required to undergo a period of quarantine, to protect other members of the community. These people include those who have recently returned from overseas, and those who have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
Quarantine for people returning from overseas
Most cases of COVID-19 in Australia have occurred in people who have returned from overseas, as well as their household contacts. For this reason, to prevent the risk of onward transmission in the community, allpeople returning to Australia from overseas must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Australia. Currently, people arriving in Australia from overseas must undergo 14 days of government-mandated hotel quarantine in their port of arrival, unless granted an exemption.
If you are undergoing hotel-based quarantine in the ACT, you will receive specific advice about this from ACT Health when entering quarantine.
If you are granted an exemption to complete home-based quarantine in the ACT, you will be contacted by ACT Health and provided with specific advice about your quarantine period and requirements.
Exemptions from hotel quarantine
The Chief Health Officer can consider granting exemptions from hotel based quarantine at port of entry, or in the ACT, on urgent medical or compassionate grounds. You must apply to the ACT for an exemption if you are seeking:
- To quarantine in the ACT directly after arriving into a different jurisdiction; or
- To quarantine in a different jurisdiction after arriving from overseas to the ACT.
In all cases, you must also apply to your port of entry or home jurisdiction for an exemption.
Applications to the ACT must be sent in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and include supporting documentation that verifies your grounds for an exemption. If you are approved to undertake your quarantine in the ACT instead of at your port of entry, the default quarantine premises will be government-mandated hotel quarantine in the ACT, unless your exemption specifically allows you to quarantine at a home address.
Unaccompanied minors arriving into the ACT from overseas can apply to be exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine at the port of entry. The Parent/s or guardian/s of the unaccompanied minor will need to apply for the exemption.
The ACT will only issue an exemption for unaccompanied minors to undertake home quarantine in the ACT on the condition that they remain under constant supervision of at least one parent or guardian. All other residents living in the residential premises where an unaccompanied minor has been approved to undertake home quarantine must also quarantine for the mandatory 14-day period.
If there is no appropriate home address for the unaccompanied minor to safely quarantine, the ACT will arrange for the minor and one parent or guardian to undertake quarantine in a government approved premises.
Quarantine for people returning from interstate COVID-19 hotspots
From 07:00am on 3 July 2020, anyone entering the ACT who has been in an identified COVID-19 hotspot in Melbourne must quarantine in the ACT at their own expense, until 14 days after they were last in the hotspot, or return to their home jurisdiction at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Passengers on inbound flights from Melbourne will now be asked to provide identification when they arrive at Canberra Airport.
Anyone who entered the ACT prior to 07:00am on 3 July 2020, and who has been in a COVID-19 hotspot, is strongly encouraged to quarantine for 14 days from the date they left the hotspot. If this applies to you, please contact ACT Health through the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244.
Quarantine for people who have been in Melbourne hotspots may occur at home or in other suitable accommodation such as a hotel (at the expense of the person undergoing quarantine).
Quarantine for close contacts of COVID-19 cases
All close contacts of people who are confirmed to have COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with the infectious person. The Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team at ACT Health will identify the close contacts of every COVID-19 case. All close contacts will be contacted by CDC and advised to quarantine at home.
Most people will be able to safely undergo this quarantine period in their home. ACT Health will contact you each day during your quarantine period.
People who have been working, studying or living in a setting where there a confirmed COVID-19 case or outbreak is detected may be asked to initially quarantine while ACT Health determines whether they are considered a close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case. If this applies to you, you will need to quarantine until you receive further advice about whether you are a close contact or not. If ACT Health determines that you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, you will be contacted directly and advised to quarantine for 14 days after your last contact with the case. If ACT Health determines that you are not a close contact, you will receive an email from ACT Health via your place of work, study or residence to advise you that you are not a close contact. This means that you will no longer need to be in quarantine. You can then return to your place of work, study or residence, when you have been advised that it is safe to do so.
What is a close contact?
A close contact is:
- someone who has been face to face with someone who has COVID-19, while that person was infectious, for more than 15 minutes cumulative over the course of a week, or
- someone who has been in the same closed space with someone who has COVID-19, while that person was infectious, for more than 2 hours.
If you think you are a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19 and you haven’t been called by the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) team at ACT Health, you can contact CDC through the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244.
What does it mean to be in quarantine?
Being quarantined at home means that you need to stay at home. Being quarantined in a hotel means that you need to stay in your hotel room. You cannot go to work, school, or public areas, such as shops, cafes or restaurants. You need to tell people not to visit you while you are quarantined.
If there are other people living in your home who are not also in quarantine, you should keep yourself separate from them as much as possible.
While in quarantine, you need to monitor yourself closely for any symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. If you develop any of these symptoms, you should arrange to get tested for COVID-19. ACT Health will contact you each day to check whether you have symptoms.
While you are in quarantine, you can leave your home to seek essential medical care (including COVID-19 testing) but you need to take appropriate precautions .
Travelling to your quarantine location
Wherever possible, if you need to travel to your quarantine location, you should use a personal mode of transport, such as a private car, to minimise exposure to others. If this is not possible and you need to use public transport, rideshare or taxi, you should avoid direct contact with other people (including other passengers, drivers and transport staff), cough/sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands before and after you travel.
Do I need to wear a mask while I’m in quarantine?
You do not need to wear a mask while you are in quarantine unless you become unwell with symptoms (such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath) and there are other people in the same room as you.
How do I keep the people I live with safe from COVID-19?
If there are other people living in your home who are not also in quarantine, you should keep yourself separate from them as much as possible. Ideally, you should sleep in your own bedroom, use a separate bathroom, and avoid spending time in communal spaces (e.g. living room, kitchen, dining room) at the same time as other people in your home.
You and the people you live with should all practise good hand and respiratory hygiene.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 to 30 seconds. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser instead of washing with soap and water, if your hands are not visibly dirty. Ensure to clean your hands before handling food and before eating. After using the toilet, you must wash your hands with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands.
- Avoid close contact with others in your home. Ideally, you should sleep in a separate bedroom from others in your home.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or directly into a tissue, throw the tissue in a bin, and wash your hands.
For more information, visit the [Protect yourself page].
Do the people I live with need to be quarantined?
The people you live with do not need to be quarantined, unless they are also close contacts of a confirmed case, have recently returned from overseas, or have been advised by ACT Health to quarantine. The people you live with should also practise good hand and general hygiene.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 while you are in quarantine , contact ACT Health through the COVID-19 helpline on (02) 6207 7244, to get advice on whether the people you live with should be quarantined while you await your test result.
Can I go outside if I’m in quarantine?
If you live in a private house, it is safe for you to go into your garden or courtyard. If you live in an apartment, it safe for you to go onto your balcony.
What happens if I develop symptoms whilst in quarantine?
You need to closely monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 during your quarantine period.
The key signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and loss of sense of smell or taste. Less common symptoms are loss of smell, loss of taste, runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
If you develop any of these symptoms, you should take the following steps:
- Arrange to get tested for COVID-19. Information about how to get tested is available on the Symptoms and getting tested page. It is important to minimise contact with other people when you leave the house to get tested. You should wear a mask if you have one, practise physical distancing, and use private transport if possible. If you need to use public transport, rideshare or taxi, you should avoid direct contact with other people (including other passengers, drivers and transport staff), cough/sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands before and after you travel.
- Notify ACT Health of your symptoms. You can do this when you are contacted for your daily check-in, or by calling ACT Health through the COVID-19 helpline on (02) 6207 7244.
What if I need a medical assessment and/or my usual medications during quarantine?
If it is a medical emergency, please call triple zero (000). Tell them that you are in quarantine.
There are a number of options to access non-urgent medical care, including prescriptions for your usual medications:
- You can contact a General Practitioner (GP) to ask for a telehealth consultation (phone-based appointment). 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 using the ‘find a health service’ on the Capital Health Network website.
- The Canberra After Hours Locum Medical Service (CALMS) can provide medical care outside of business hours for review of non-urgent medical conditions. When contacting CALMS, tell them that you are currently in quarantine for COVID-19 and request a telehealth consultation. 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. For further information, you can visit the CALMS website.
To get your regular medications:
- A GP can arrange for your prescription to be sent to a local pharmacy. You can ask a friend or family member to visit the pharmacy to collect your medication and deliver it to you at home or at the hotel where you are staying. They will need to leave the medication at your front door (if you are quarantining at home) or at hotel reception.
- If you don’t have anyone who can collect a prescription for you, a number of pharmacies can offer home or hotel delivery. You will need to ring the pharmacy to arrange payment, and the pharmacy can deliver your medicines to your home or hotel.
Are there any special cleaning requirements if I’m in quarantine?
It is important to clean “high touch” surfaces frequently, especially in communal areas of the home. High touch surfaces are those that are touched regularly, such as door handles, light switches, kitchen and bathroom areas, and phones. These can be cleaned using detergent and water or a detergent-based cleaner, such as Spray N Wipe™.
How do I shop for food?
You may need groceries when you are in quarantine. 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 or hotel. They should leave the groceries at your door or at hotel reception.
Some grocery stores offer home delivery for groceries ordered online, including the main supermarket chains. Groceries should be left at your front door. Most stores will offer contactless delivery. However, if your groceries need to be signed for, this should ideally be done by someone else in your home who is not in quarantine. If this is not possible, you can sign for the groceries, but you must wear a mask and wash your hands before answering the door.
How do I maintain my mental health during quarantine?
Home quarantine can be distressing and can have impacts on your mental health and wellbeing. You may feel frustrated, distressed or overwhelmed in coping with quarantine 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 live with others, it’s important to try and be considerate of everyone’s needs, including having some time alone through the day.
- In confined households, you might not get on as well as you’d like all the time! If there are conflicts and arguments, try to resolve things as calmly and as soon as possible.
- 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, see our page on Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19.
If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing during your quarantine 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.
Further assistance for people in quarantine
If you have more questions or need help while being quarantined 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.
If you’re looking for quarantine information and advice in NSW, please visit the NSW Government’s COVID-19 website.