100 questions about coronavirus answered
Laura Chalmers & Vanessa Marsh, The Courier-Mail
March 28, 2020 12:00am
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation and it’s understandable that people have a lot of questions.
We’ve answered 100 of the top questions about the coronavirus outbreak and what it means for you and your family.
This coronavirus article is unlocked and free to read in the interest of community health and safety. For full access to our journalism – and to download the digital edition of the newspaper as it is printed every day – subscribe here or at couriermail.com.au/subscribe
- When will this health pandemic end?
The Australian Government has indicated that the current restrictions in place to try to COVID-19 are likely to last for at least six months. Experts say this disease will not be eliminated worldwide until a vaccine is found, and that could be for 12 to 18 months.
- What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to other colds and flus, but it is more than just a common cold. Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that infects the cell lining in the lungs and throat, causing dry coughs, fever, body aches, fatigue and a headache. For 80 per cent of people, these are the only symptoms that will be experienced – but for around 14 per cent of people, the body’s immune system will overreact, causing inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia). For 6 per cent of people, the immune system begins to cause damage to other parts of the body – potentially resulting in death from septic shocks or organ failure.
- Do children get sick from coronavirus?
Children and babies are able to contract the disease but they are less likely to develop serious symptoms. University of Sydney paediatrician Professor Robert Booy says that when children get a viral illness for the first time, it is usually only mildly. He also says babies can contract the disease – but like in children, the infection is also mild. The Health Department says the risk to children and babies and the role they play in the transmission of COVID-19 is not clear, however there have been a low rate of confirmed cases among children.
- I think I have coronavirus. What should I do next?
The Australian government is encouraging anyone who suspects they have coronavirus to call the national coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080 and talk to an operator, who will tell you what you should do next. People who suspect they have coronavirus should not present at a GP clinic or a hospital emergency department without first seeking advice, to minimise the chance of infecting others. In Queensland you can also phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice.
- I’m self-isolating after returning to Queensland from overseas. Can I go for a walk if I don’t see anyone?
No. If you have been overseas and returned to Australia after March 16 or have been ordered to isolate, the Government’s isolation advice allows at the most for you to be outside in a private garden or courtyard.
- Is it still safe to eat at a restaurant or go to the pub or cafe?
No. As of midday Monday March 23, all licensed and registered venues must close while restaurants and cafes can only offer takeaway or home delivery services.
- Is it still safe to go the gym?
No. As of midday Monday March 23 all gyms and indoor sport venues must close. All outdoor exercise, like boot camp, is fine if everyone ensures there is one person per four square metres and there is a limit to 10 people in one group.
- I’m 70 years old. What should I do to stay safe?
Elderly members of the community should take reasonable precautions to protect themselves. This includes staying home if possible and trying to avoid public transport. Wear gloves and a mask when venturing outside if possible and make sure to frequently wash your hands and use hand sanitiser. Try to take advantage of services now being offered for elderly Australians like the community shopping hour between 7am and 8am by both Coles and Woolworths. Woolworths is now only reserving online delivery of groceries for vulnerable groups.
- Will I die if I get coronavirus?
Probably not. Currently, the mortality rate in Australia is less than 1 per cent. Globally, it is just under five per cent, with only six per cent of cases developing life-threatening symptoms. However, no-one is truly safe and the advice of health authorities should be followed. It’s too early to tell what percentage of Queenslanders who get COVID-19 may die.
- I have a relative in an aged care home. Can I visit them?
The Australian government has recently announced new guidelines for people visiting nursing homes as elderly people are especially vulnerable and nursing homes are a nexus for disease transmission – three of Australia’s six deaths have been residents of an aged care home. There can now only be two people visiting a home at any one time, and only for short periods of time. The visit should be conducted in the resident’s room, outdoors or in a specified area. You cannot enter an aged care facility if you have been overseas in the past 14 days or have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case. From May 1, you must also have had a flu shot to enter an aged care home. Many aged care facilities have voluntarily locked down so check with your loved one’s facility as to what rules they have in place.
- I have a relative in hospital. Can I visit them?
Individual hospitals are making their own individual preparations regarding visitors. Contact the relevant hospital to find out what their guidelines are – but don’t go if you have been overseas in the past 14 days, or if you have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.
- Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine. However, trials are underway in Australia and internationally. A vaccine could be available in 12 to 18 months.
- I’m in self-isolation. How do I get food?
If you are a member of a vulnerable group then supermarkets will deliver grocery orders to you. If you are not, Coles and Woolworths will not deliver and other supermarkets may not be able to fulfil your order in a timely manner. In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said if you are in isolation and you run out of food, you can call 13 HEALTH to organise for food to be delivered. Additionally, many restaurants are still offering home delivery and food delivery services like Uber eats are still operational.
- Is takeaway food safe?
If you believe the place you are ordering food from follows government hygiene guidelines, then the takeaway food should be fine.
- Is it safe to go to the movies?
No, as of midday Monday March 23, all cinemas must close.
- When do I need to self-isolate?
You need to self-isolate for 14 days if you have returned from overseas within the last fortnight, or have had contact with a confirmed case within the last fortnight from the date of return or contact made. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is wise to voluntarily self-isolate and contact the government’s coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080.
- If I self-isolate and live with other people, do they have to self-isolate too?
Official government guidelines do not require family or housemates to self-isolate alongside someone who has. However, contact between people should be minimal and if any other person develops symptoms then they too should isolate.
- I am returning to Queensland from overseas. Can I domestically transfer before entering self-isolation?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that all arrivals coming into Australia from midnight today (Saturday) will be quarantined in hotels for 14 days. Arrivals will have to quarantine in their city of arrival, regardless of whether they live in Australia.
- What does flattening the curve mean?
“Flattening the curve” is a term being used by medical officials and the Australian government to describe slowing the rate of coronavirus infection to a manageable point. The idea is to slow the number of new coronavirus cases over a longer period so that people have better access to care, and health workers and intensive care units do not get overwhelmed.
- I have a health condition, do I need to worry about coronavirus?
People with underlying health conditions are more at risk from coronavirus. Specifically, people undergoing cancer treatment or people with heart disease, asthma, diabetes, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, HIV, auto-immune disorders or recipients of bone marrow transplant are also at risk.
- Can the virus be passed on in food?
There is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through properly prepared food, according to the European Food Safety Authority. However, investigations are continuing and the WHO recommends raw meat, raw milk and raw animal organs should not be consumed.
- Are fresh vegetables and fruit safe from the virus or do I need to wash everything first?
As coronavirus can be transmitted via surfaces, it is prudent to wash all raw food that may have been handled by others before cooking it.
- What precautions can I take when I go to the supermarket?
Try to shop at a quieter time when it is easier to avoid crowds, and during the community shopping hour set up by Coles and Woolworths if you are elderly and eligible. Keep your distance from other shoppers – especially if anyone if showing any cold or flu symptoms, disinfect your shopping trolley with wipes and try not to touch your face. Use a contactless method of payment such as a card.
- Should I let my kids play in the playground?
The virus can live for days on metal and plastic – so it is possible for it to survive on play equipment. And although children do not experience coronavirus symptoms as badly as older people, they can still transmit the disease. In line with the government’s latest rules, only take your family outside if it is absolutely necessary and it is a good idea not to let your children clamber around on play equipment with other kids.
- Could my pet be a carrier?
The CDC advises that although there is no evidence companion animals can spread COVID-19, animals have been known to carry coronaviruses in the past. Practise good hygiene after interacting with your pets and to practice social distancing from them if you suspect you are infected. The WHO says there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COV-19, with the exception of one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong.
- Should I let people pat my pet?
There have been no confirmed cases of this occurring but coronavirus can live on porous surfaces like hair – but not as long as it can on smoother surfaces. Take reasonable precautions and practice social distancing.
- Are there some surfaces that I should clean more regularly than others in my house, or does the virus last for the same length of time on all surfaces?
New research shows that the virus survives longer on some surfaces than others. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that COVID-19 can survive 24 hours on cardboard, up to three days on plastic and stainless steel services and about this long laminated work desks and door handles – although it dies on copper after about four hours.
- Are there some household cleaners that are better than others? Is there a basic ingredient I should be looking for?
The most effective ways of killing coronavirus are alcohol-based cleaning solution between 62-71 per cent, 0.5 per cent hydrogen peroxide bleach or household bleach with 0.1 per cent sodium hypochlorite concentration. Hospital-grade disinfectant brands available in supermarkets are suitable.
- My elderly father can’t look after his garden – is it still safe for him to have someone to come in to mow his lawn and look after his plants?
So long as appropriate social distancing is practised, it should be fine. Keep the gardener in the garden and don’t shake his hand or give him a hug.
- Is it safe to swim in the local pool? Does chlorine kill the virus?
There is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus transmits through properly treated swimming pool, according to Harvard Medical School. However, public pools are inappropriate places to visit at the present time and should be avoided. Indoor swimming facilities will be forced to close as of midday, Monday March 23 and all other swimming pools will close on Thursday March 26.
- Can I drive or fly interstate?
The Queensland Government restricted travel into the state from midnight on Wednesday. Other state and territory governments have introduced similar restrictions. Queenslanders are encouraged to not travel throughout the state and to stay close to home. This is not a time to go on holidays, go visit family and friends or attend planned events.
- Can my family who live interstate come and visit me?
The Queensland Government restricted travel into the state from midnight on Wednesday. Anyone arriving in Queensland must now self-quarantine for 14 days. The only exemptions are people providing critical services such as health or emergency services or freight, and on general compassionate grounds.
- Can I have a party at my house?
No. All Australians are being advised to practise social distancing and are being told to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary. People should avoid public gatherings at this time.
- What medications can I take at home if I am sick with coronavirus?
There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. It is important to rest well and keep fluids up, like if you were ill with a normal flu. Paracetamol is currently acceptable as a way of managing the symptoms of coronavirus. The WHO briefly warned against treating symptoms with ibuprofen, but has since retracted that advice.
- How is coronavirus diagnosed?
Infection with COVID-19 is diagnosed by finding evidence of the virus in respiratory samples such as swabs from the back of the nose and throat or fluid from the lungs.
- Should I bulk buy groceries?
There is no need to bulk-buy products at supermarkets including toilet paper, paracetamol and canned food. It is prudent for households to have a small stock of non-perishable groceries to cover the event that in the coming months the household has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. However, it’s important to note the role of family and friends in supporting those in isolation and also to note that online grocery delivery services are available to people in isolation.
- Should I bulk buy medicines?
There is no need to bulk-buy medicines. Limits have now been placed on the purchase of items such as paracetamol and Ventolin.
- What should I use to wash my hands?
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to prevent passing on germs. Dry your hands. If you can’t access soap and water, the WHO say hand sanitiser is the next best thing.
- I’m worried about my mental health, who can I speak to?
It’s totally normal to feel concerned when big events happen in the world. All the news headlines, official government press conferences, and stories from family and friends can seem scary. It is important for people to look after their mental health. If you are feeling scared, worried or upset for two weeks or more, it’s worth speaking to someone close to you or a medical professional. Adults can also contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or children can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
- Am I immune once I’ve recovered from coronavirus?
Scientists believe we are likely to develop immunity to COVID-19 once we have been infected, making reinfection unlikely. However there is not clear evidence on this point yet.
- How is coronavirus different from the flu?
Many people who fall ill with the new coronavirus disease will experience mild, flu-like symptoms. But COVID-19 is not the same as flu. Based on the experience of other countries, COVID-19 appears more contagious and more deadly. One person with COVID-19 goes on to infect two or two-and-a-half people. That figure for the flu is estimated to be around 1.3. COVID-19 also appears to be more deadly. The seasonal flu mortality rate is about 0.1 per cent, while the global case fatality rate for COVID-19 is estimated to be between 1 and 3 per cent.
- How long are people infected with coronavirus sick for?
The infection period for the virus will vary from person to person. Mild symptoms in an otherwise healthy individual may resolve over just a few days. Similar to influenza, for an individual with other ongoing health issues, such as a respiratory condition, recovery may take weeks and in severe cases could be potentially fatal.
- Do I qualify for a coronavirus test?
The criteria for testing by Queensland Health, as of March 26, is that a person is eligible for testing if they have a fever (or history of fever) or acute respiratory symptoms, and, in the last 14 days they were a close contact or a household contact or they had been overseas, including on a cruise. Testing is also possible for people who have a fever (or history of fever) or acute respiratory symptoms, AND work in vulnerable settings such as healthcare, aged or residential care, military, correction facilities, detention centres and boarding schools, live in an area where an outbreak has occurred or live in a First Nations community.
- Where are the Queensland fever clinics located?
Fever clinics are specialist clinics for people who may be infected with novel coronavirus (COVID-19). These clinics help to keep people who may be contagious away from other areas of hospitals and health centres. This helps to reduce the potential spread of the virus and keeps the emergency department available for emergencies. Fever clinics are managed by individual Hospital and Health Services and it is best to contact 13 HEALTH for the most up-to-date advice on where to present for testing.
- My friend or family member recently arrived home from overseas – can I visit them?
No. Under tough new rules, all arrivals coming into Australia from midnight tonight (Saturday) will be quarantined in hotels for 14 days. Arrivals will have to quarantine in their city of arrival, regardless of where they live.
- When will our borders reopen?
No time frame has been specified.
- What caused the coronavirus?
Currently, the source of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus (CoV) causing COVID-19 is unknown. All available evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has a natural animal origin and is not a constructed virus. SARS-CoV-2 virus most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats. SARS-CoV-2, belongs to a group of genetically related viruses, which also include SARS-CoV and a number of other CoVs isolated from bats populations. MERS-CoV also belongs to this group, but is less closely related.
- I’ve been told I’m a close contact of someone with the virus – what does that mean?
If you have been in contact with a person identified as a close contact of another person with confirmed COVID-19 infection, you do not need to self-isolate (although the close contact does) and don’t need take any other special precautions. If a close contact develops symptoms and is confirmed as a COVID-19 case, public health authorities will determine who, if anyone, has been in close contact with them while they were infectious, and these people will be directed to self-isolate.
- Can I go into work?
All Australians are required to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside. If people have the capacity to work from home they should.
- Who was the first person infected with coronavirus?
The first human cases of COVID-19 were identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. At this stage, it is not possible to determine precisely how humans in China were initially infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, SARS-CoV, the virus which caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, jumped from an animal reservoir (civet cats, a farmed wild animal) to humans and then spread between humans. In a similar way, it is thought that SARS-CoV-2 jumped the species barrier and initially infected humans, but more likely through an intermediate host, that is another animal species more likely to be handled by humans – this could be a domestic animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal and, as of yet, has not been identified. Until the source of this virus is identified and controlled, there is a risk of reintroduction of the virus in the human population and the risk of new outbreaks like the ones we are currently experiencing.
- Can I catch the virus by opening my mail including letter and parcels?
The virus can survive on the surface of paper and cardboard for up to 24 hours so there is a slight risk but experts encourage people to take precautions including washing your hands after handling foreign objects. Australia Post has also helped to reduce the risk of virus transmission by no longer requiring people to sign for packages and offering a contact-free delivery.
- I’m worried about my kids going to school. Should I keep them at home?
The Queensland Government has implemented pupil-free days for the remainder of the term to allow teachers time to prepare for online learning. However schools are still open for the children of essential workers to ensure workers can continue on in their jobs.
- When will kids go back to school as normal?
The Queensland Government says it’s preparing for all contingencies but cannot yet confirm when school will resume as normal
- What is an “essential” worker?
Anyone currently in the workforce is classified as an essential worker. It doesn’t just apply to health and emergency services workers but to anyone with a job including people stacking grocery shelves.
- Why are the student free days being implemented next week?
“Student free days next week will enable our teachers to prepare for learning at home and to be able to deliver the curriculum requirements of students when we work out exactly what is going to happen into the future,” Education Minister Grace Grace said.
- Why don’t they just shut schools to all children?
Health Minister Steven Miles said the state could have lost up to 30 per cent of its health staff if schools had completely closed. With fears a large portion of our health workers could fall ill, we need as many workers doing their job as possible.
- Does this just apply to state schools?
The decision applies to all schools in Queensland including public, independent, private and Catholic schools. It also applies to kindergartens.
- Should I just ask grandparents to take care of the kids while I’m at work?
The health minister urged parents to think very carefully about the risk of leaving children with those who are elderly or vulnerable to the coronavirus. There is a high risk that children could transmit the virus to people outside their regular household and that includes grandparents.
- Will kids still learn?
Students can log in online or use hard copy units of schoolwork to do work next week.
The materials are on the website so parents can access them if they want that learning to continue. However, the main focus of student free days is to free up teachers to prepare for complete remote learning in the future. Kids are not meant to be going out in the community. If they’re not at school, they should be at home.
- When does the school break start?
The break for Queensland schools officially begins on April 6, next week is five student free days with schools still open for the children of essential workers.
- Are pregnant women at greater risk from the coronavirus?
Research is currently underway to understand the impacts of COVID 19 infection on pregnant women. The data is limited, but at present there is no evidence that they are at higher risk of severe illness than the general population. However, due to changes in their bodies and immune systems, pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections. It is therefore important that they take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19, and report possible symptoms to their healthcare provider.
- Can I still have sex?
Social distancing rules should be applied in all situations and this includes sex. The government says it’s OK to be in contact with your regular household but not with people outside of that household. So casual sex definitely isn’t a good day while we’re being urged to distance ourselves from people we’re not usually in contact with.
- Am I protected against COVID-19 19 if I have had the flu vaccine?
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. However the government is urging everyone to get vaccinated against the flu, the same advice they give every year. Influenza already puts strain on our health system every year so we need to reduce that strain, especially while authorities are already dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
- I have to work from home. Will I be able to claim a tac deduction for home office expenses?
If you work from home because of COVID-19, you may be able to claim a deduction for the additional running expenses you incur. These include expenses associated with heating, cooling and lighting in the area you are working from, phone and internet and other running expenses.
- I have tested positive. Will I really be non-contagious after just 14 days?
According to the WHO, the average incubation period, the amount of time between infection and the appearance of symptoms, can take from one days to 14 days, most commonly five. But some outliers have shown much longer incubation periods upwards of 20 days.
- What is social distancing?
Social distancing is one way to help slow the spread of viruses. Social distancing includes staying at home as much as possible, keeping 1.5 metres away from others as much as possible, avoiding shaking hands, kissing or hugging others. If you can, work from home and avoid gatherings that aren’t essential. Practising social distancing can help protect the people in our community who are most at risk.
- Can the novel coronavirus be transmitted through tap water?
There is no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from Queensland drinking water. Current information about transmission of COVID-19 is that it occurs from person to person contact, via droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. Queensland Health says drinking tap water in Queensland is safe.
- What happens if I need help while I’m in self-quarantine?
Community recovery support and assistance is available through the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, for Queenslanders in self-quarantine due to COVID-19. If you require assistance call the Community Recovery hotline 1800 173 349. The Queensland Government is also partnering with the Australian Red Cross, to ensure people have access to support during their period of self-quarantine. This service includes a regular telephone call to check-in on the person’s wellbeing and to identify any practical support they may need help with. People who are self-quarantined can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for further advice and to register for support. Staff at 13 HEALTH can connect people through to a local public health unit and other health support services.
- Should I stop using keep cups?
Most cafes are no longer serving coffee in keep cups and if they are, it’s not a good idea to keep using your keep cup during this time due to the danger of germs being transferred to you and to cafe workers.
- Can I still use cash?
While there have been no known cases of coronavirus being transmitted by cash, many stores have stopped accepting it as a form of payment. The WHO has not issued an official warning against using bank notes but has urged people to practise good hygiene if doing so.
- Will I get my fees back if I cancel childcare?
No – although a closed childcare centre cannot continue to charge fees. On the issue of subsidies, federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced on Monday that both a childcare centre and parents sending their children to that childcare centre will continue to receive subsidies if that centre is directed to close over coronavirus concerns. You will still be able to access childcare subsidies if you decide to keep your child home due to coronavirus beyond the standard six week of absences afforded to every child – but only if you have a doctor’s certificate.
- Am I allowed to leave the house if my boss tells me to work from home?
Unless you are quarantined because you’ve returned from overseas, have been into contact with someone who has been overseas or are feeling unwell, you can still go about normal activities, but follow government advice and proper hygienic practices when doing so.
- Is it safe to catch taxis or ridesharing services?
People are being urged to extremely careful when in a public area of any kind including taxis and ride sharing. The government is urging drivers to employ good hygiene practices – such as the use of hand sanitiser and disinfectant – to ensure the virus doesn’t transfer through the vehicle. The Prime Minister has also advised people sit in the back of the taxi if possible. It is not completely safe, but it is a good alternative to mass public transport.
- Will fuel prices go down?
RACQ expects unleaded petrol prices to dive below $1 per litre as lower demand caused by coronavirus lockdowns and the oil price war started by Saudi Arabia crushes crude oil. Some petrol stations slashed the price of unleaded fuel to as low as 98.7 cents this week.
- Is it safe to play social sport like golf or tennis with others?
People have been urged to avoid all contact sports to abide by social distancing measures. The Australian Institute of Sport recommends that sporting activities be modified to “facilitate social distancing recommendations” – all indoor sporting facilities were closed on Monday March 23 and as of Thursday, group exercise classes are limited to 10 people.
- Do I need to stop dating new people during the pandemic?
Dating is fine but again, as long as you comply with social distancing. No handshakes, kissing or any other contact is allowed with someone who is not a member of your regular household.
- How many people have the novel coronavirus?
As of last night, more than half a million people across the globe have been diagnosed with coronavirus and more than 24,000 people have died.
- Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?
No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
- Are any medications unsafe to take?
It is best to consult with a pharmacist or your doctor about what medications you should take if you believe you have coronavirus as there is no evidence to suggest any medication is harmful. However, some doctors have expressed concern over immunosuppressant medications potentially exacerbating symptoms – but most authorities believe this is not an issue.
- Should I be wearing a face mask?
Only people who have travelled overseas, feel unwell and have access to a face mask need to use one. According to Queensland Health, a face mask is not necessary if you do not have symptoms.
- If I do need to use a mask, how do use and dispose of it safely?
Remember, a mask should only be used by health workers, care takers, and individuals with respiratory symptoms, such as fever and cough. This is the advice from the World Health Organisation on using masks:
- Before touching the mask, clean hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- Take the mask and inspect it for tears or holes.
- Orient which side is the top side (where the metal strip is).
- Ensure the proper side of the mask faces outwards (the coloured side).
- Place the mask to your face. Pinch the metal strip or stiff edge of the mask so it moulds to the shape of your nose.
- Pull down the mask’s bottom so it covers your mouth and your chin.
- After use, take off the mask; remove the elastic loops from behind the ears while keeping the mask away from your face and clothes, to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask.
- Discard the mask in a closed bin immediately after use.
- Perform hand hygiene after touching or discarding the mask – Use alcohol-based hand rub or, if visibly soiled, wash your hands with soap and water.
- Is it safe to stay in a hotel?
While the government has not banned hotel stays, it has issued advice to hotel operators about what to do if a guest falls ill or has to self isolate. Many hotels have also decided to shut down until the coronavirus threat has passed. A hotel is likely to be riskier than staying in a private residence due to the quantity of people pass through and share common spaces. You should only stay in a hotel if you only have nowhere else to go. As of midnight Saturday, anyone who returns from overseas will be quarantined in a hotel before they’re allowed to return home.
- Will my boss get annoyed or fire me if I call in sick?
They absolutely shouldn’t. The official advice from the Australian government is that anyone who feels unwell should not leave the house, let alone go to work. Workplaces are also being encouraged to let staff work from home wherever practical.
- I was thinking of buying or selling a house – should I still do that?
CoreLogic, a property data service said on Tuesday that the Australian housing market historical performs well in economic shocks – but a pandemic-induced economic slowdown may have “unique” effect when combined with existing economic headwinds like high household debt. The proportion of foreign and domestic investors in the housing market is ebbing towards a low point for the decade – meaning that money is less likely to be pulled out of the market at short notice. However, house sales are unlikely to rise as the economy faces certain recession. The prediction drawn by CoreLogic is that the housing market is likely to drop, but drop slower than other parts of the economy and recover faster.
- Can I still get married?
You can still get married but the government has put in strict rules that limit the number of people at a wedding ceremony or reception to just five people – that includes the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses. And social distancing rules still need to be adhered to. The coronavirus has caused thousands of Australian couples to cancel or postpone their wedding.
- What happens if I don’t self-isolate after returning from overseas? Will I be fined?
Yes. All states and territories have enacted penalties for failing to self-isolate if ordered or after returning from overseas. In Queensland, people face a fine of up to $13,345. As of midnight Saturday, people returning from overseas will not be allowed to return home until they have completed a 14-day isolation period in a hotel or similar facility.
- Is COVID-19 the same as SARS?
No. The virus that causes COVID-19 and the one that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 are related to each other genetically, but the diseases they cause are quite different. SARS was more deadly but much less infectious than COVID-19. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.
- What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
- I can’t find what I need at the supermarket, where else can I shop?
Farmers markets will remain open and many charities and food banks offer free or discounted groceries for the disadvantaged. And there is always the local butcher or fruit shop, who are permitted to remain open.
- Should I worry about COVID-19? Will I be hospitalised if I catch it?
According to the World Health Organisation, illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness. About one in every five people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones. We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. First and foremost among these actions is regular and thorough handwashing and good respiratory hygiene. Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement and gatherings.
- Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?
Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.
- Someone sneezed near me today – could they have transmitted coronavirus to me?
The government is advising people to stay 1.5m apart to prevent airborne coronavirus-infected droplets from spreading from person to person.
- How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses, including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus, may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions for example the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment. If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
- Is there a chance I’ve already had or have the coronavirus and don’t know?
Possibly. Some people who have been diagnosed with the disease report little to no symptoms. However, unless you have recently returned from overseas or have had contact with a confirmed case, it is unlikely.
- Are reality TV shows going to be cancelled because of the virus.
Production has already been suspended The Voice Australia, Big Brother and Australia’s Got Talent. TV dramas Neighbours and Home And Away have also suspended production. In the US, where the situation is worse, over 100 shows have halted productions. Cancellations are a possibility.
- Should I more buy toilet paper?
Only if you don’t have some or are running low. The shortage of toilet paper is manufactured by people panic buying rolls, not because there isn’t enough available. Australia has the capability to produce enough toilet paper to supply the population so if people stop panic buying bulk amounts, there will be enough for everyone.
- What is the testing process for COVID-19?
Testing for novel coronavirus involves collecting nasal or throat swabs, and sputum (mucus coughed up) and blood samples. These samples are then transferred to the nearest laboratory that is set up to test for novel coronavirus. After you have had samples taken, you will usually be sent home to self-quarantine while you wait for the results. This can take several days. If you are very unwell you may be admitted to hospital for treatment. If you become sicker while you are waiting for results, please contact your doctor or call an ambulance. Make sure you let them know you are waiting for test results for novel coronavirus. If the result is positive, you will receive a call from a public health unit which will advise you what to do next. In many cases, you will need to stay at home in self-quarantine until you recover. If your condition becomes worse, you may be admitted to hospital in a quarantined area. If the result is negative, you will be notified by the doctor who requested the testing.
- Should I lick the envelope if I send a letter?
Americans have been advised not to lick envelopes during the coronavirus outbreak. The advice was issued in Washington State, the epicentre of the virus in the United States, which recently advised voters in the Democratic primary not to enclose their ballots by licking their envelopes. The advice was issued by the state public health authority, so it would be prudent to use tape instead.
- My partner isn’t an Australian citizen – can they come into the country with me?
As of 9pm on Friday March 20 all non-citizens and nonresidents, including Visa holders, cannot enter the country. However, if you are married to your partner then they can apply for a special temporary visa to enter the country. The same applies to children of Australian citizens or permanent residents.
- How is the government making sure returned travellers isolate?
The Prime Minister announced yesterday that the defence force and police were being enlisted to ensure returned travellers were isolating as declared on their incoming passenger cards. From midnight tonight (Saturday) people returning from overseas will also be required to isolate in hotels.
- Will I get a refund for the upcoming show or concert I had tickets to?
Under Australian consumer law, ticket holders to an event are entitled to a refund if an event is cancelled unless the cancellation is government-ordered due to a crisis. However, many cancelled events are offering refunds for ticket holders – you should get in contact with the booking company and find out.