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, all people 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 for international travellers 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 identified interstate hotspots
Public Health Directions and border restrictions are in place for people who have recently been in Victoria. In addition, Public Health Directions are in place for people who have visited specific venues in New South Wales that have been associated with COVID-19 clusters. Find out about current requirements for the ACT on the Travel advice page.
People who have been in Victoria in the past 14 days are banned from entering the ACT, except for ACT residents and those granted exemptions. For more information about border restrictions, including how to notify ACT Health of your intent to return to the ACT from Victoria (if you are an ACT resident) or to apply for an exemption to enter the ACT (if you are not an ACT resident), please see the Travel advice page.
Quarantine is currently mandatory for people returning to the ACT from Victoria, and for people who have visited specific venues in New South Wales.
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.
Even if you remain well during your quarantine period, ACT Health will provide you with information about getting tested for COVID-19 before you finish quarantine, in order to help keep the community safe.
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 as advised by ACT Health. If you have a medical emergency, you should call triple zero (000). Be sure to let them know that you are in quarantine.
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 the people I live with need to be quarantined?
If you can maintain appropriate separation from other people who live with you, they do not need to also be in quarantine. Appropriate separate means sleeping in a separate bedroom, using a separate bathroom if available, and not spending time in the same room as other people.
If you cannot maintain separation as described above, then the people you live with will need to quarantine in your home along with you, or you will need to quarantine in a hotel or other approved premises (at your own expense).
Under a Public Health Direction, a parent/guardian is required to quarantine alongside a minor who is in quarantine.
How do I keep the people I live with safe from COVID-19?
See below for information on what to do if you need to quarantine and live with other people who are not in quarantine. You must sleep in a bedroom on your own, use a separate bathroom if available, and avoid spending time in the same room as other people. If you need to be in the same room as other people, you should wear a mask.
You need to pay close attention to cleaning. 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 I need to wear a mask while I’m in quarantine?
If you are staying in a hotel room, you do not need to wear a mask if you have no symptoms. You need to wear a mask should you need to open the door to anyone. If you develop symptoms and there are family members sharing your hotel room, you should wear a mask inside the hotel room. Young children who cannot tolerate a mask do not need to wear one.
If you are in quarantine at a private residence, you should wear a mask when you are in a room with other people.
When wearing a mask, it must cover your nose and mouth at all times. Avoid touching or adjusting your mask unnecessarily.
Can I go outside if I’m in quarantine?
If you have a private garden, courtyard or balcony, you may go outside into these areas.
What symptoms should I look out for while I am in quarantine, and what do I do if I get symptoms?
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, loss of smell and loss of taste. Less common symptoms are 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:
- 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.
- 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), sit in the back seat in a taxi or rideshare, wear a face mask, practise good respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette, and wash your hands before and after you travel.
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™.
What if there is an evacuation at the hotel or requirement to evacuate my home?
In the unlikely event that there is an evacuation at the hotel or your home (e.g. due to a fire alarm), you should proceed out of your hotel room or your home and follow usual emergency procedures. You and everyone else who is in quarantine with you must wear a surgical mask (if you have them). Young children who cannot tolerate a mask do not need to wear one.
You must follow the instructions of hotel staff (if applicable) and any emergency services personnel. You must always remain 1.5 metres away from other people (except anyone you live with who is also in quarantine). You must also inform emergency services personnel that you are in quarantine.
How do I shop for food?
There are several options to get food while you are in home or hotel quarantine.
- If you have friends or family in Canberra who can buy food for you, they can deliver groceries or other food for you. They must leave it at your front door (if you are quarantining at home) or at hotel reception.
- If you are in home quarantine and you live with people who are not also in quarantine, they can buy groceries or other food for you.
Some grocery stores offer home delivery for groceries ordered online, including the main supermarket chains. Groceries should be left at your front door (if you are quarantining at home) or at hotel reception.
- You can also order takeaway food from local restaurants using apps such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo or Menulog, or by calling local restaurants and ordering takeaway directly. The food will need to be left at your front door (if you are quarantining at home) or at hotel reception.
How do I maintain my mental health during quarantine?
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.