Self-isolation (self-quarantine)

What is isolation?

A person with coronavirus (COVID-19) or suspected to have it must enter mandatory isolation.

Isolation is different from quarantine and physical distancing.

Who must go into isolation

You will need to isolate to prevent the spread of the virus to others if:

  • you have COVID-19
  • health authorities suspect you have COVID-19

You will need to isolate in:

  • hospital if you need hospital care
  • your home if it is suitable
  • another location if needed as decided by your public health authority

The public health authority will advise you when you can leave.

If you get tested for the virus, or you have symptoms, you need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. You will need to do this until you either have a negative test result or your symptoms have gone – whichever is longer.

Steps you need to take while in isolation

If you are not at home when you find out you have COVID-19, you must go straight home. You cannot stop anywhere, not even to buy medicine or groceries. Where possible, use personal transport such as a private car.

You must stay isolated until your public health authority advises you are safe to leave. If you leave isolation without permission you may face criminal charges or a fine.

Isolation means you:

  • must not leave your home except in an emergency or to get essential medical care
  • must not go into public places including work and shops
  • must not let any other person into your home unless the person

You should tell your public health unit before leaving your house if possible. If you leave, you must wear a mask.

If you live in a house, you may go into your garden or courtyard. You can go onto your balcony if you live in an apartment or are staying in a hotel.

If you are in a hotel you must avoid contact with other guests and staff.

Monitor symptoms

If your symptoms get worse phone your doctor. You should be on the lookout for high fevers or trouble breathing.

Keep in contact with your GP so they can monitor your health.

If you are having serious symptoms you should call 000 straight away. This includes shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or chest pressure or pain. Tell the ambulance staff you have COVID-19.

If you live alone, a friend or family member can ring you to check you are OK.

Living with other people while in isolation

If you share your home with others, you should limit your contact with them. Do this by:

  • staying alone in your own room
  • using a different bathroom, if possible
  • avoiding shared areas
  • wearing a mask  when in the same room as others
  • not being in the same room as other people, especially people at risk of severe disease (this includes elderly people and people with heart, lung, or kidney conditions and diabetes)
  • practising good hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes
  • not sharing household items
  • frequently cleaning the house, especially things people touch often, like door handles

Cover coughs and sneezes

Practise good cough and sneeze hygiene:

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow
  • place used tissues in a bin
  • wash your hands straight away with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or
  • use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser

Wash your hands regularly

You should wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands are not visibly dirty.

Always do this:

  • before entering an area where there are other people
  • before touching things used by other people
  • after using the bathroom
  • after coughing or sneezing
  • before putting on, and after removing, gloves and masks.

Wear a mask

Wear a mask when you are:

  • in the same room as another person, even if they are also in isolation
  • passing through communal areas
  • you visit a health care provider

Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth at all times. Don’t touch your mask unnecessarily and replace it if it is wet.

Don’t share household items

You should not share items with people in your home if possible, including:

  • dishes
  • drinking glasses
  • cups
  • cutlery
  • towels
  • bedding

After using these items, wash them with soap and water or put them in a dishwasher or washing machine.

Steps other members of the household and caregivers can take to prevent infection

You should only share a house with a person with COVID-19 if:

  • you are providing essential care to that person
  • you cannot find a different place to live

People who stay in the same place as someone with COVID-19 will be a close contact and must follow quarantine rules. People should follow these rules for 14 days from when the person with COVID-19 was last infectious.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands are not visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Always wash your hands before putting on and after taking off gloves and masks.

Wear a mask

Wear disposable masks and gloves when:

  • you are in the same room as the person with COVID-19
  • you touch or have contact with the person’s blood, body fluids and/or secretions

You should:

  • make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth at all times
  • throw out masks and gloves after use
  • wash your hands immediately after taking off masks and gloves

Monitor symptoms

If you are a caregiver or household member and develop a cold or flu-like symptoms you should call your GP or healthdirect. Tell them you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

If you become very unwell and it is a medical emergency call 000.


Clean all ‘high-touch’ surfaces at least once per day wearing water-proof disposable gloves. This includes:

  • benchtops
  • tabletops
  • doorknobs
  • bathroom fixtures
  • toilets
  • bedside tables
  • phones
  • computer keyboards
  • tablets

You should also clean any surfaces that may have blood, body fluids and/or secretions on them.

Read labels of cleaning products and follow the instructions for use. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product. They also include precautions you should take when applying the product.

There are 2 options for cleaning something:

  • a 2-step cleaning process, where you clean something with detergent and then disinfect it
  • a 1-step process, where you use a combined detergent and disinfectant product.

The disinfectant you use should say on the label it is hospital-grade that kills viruses. You can also use a chlorine-based product such as bleach.

If you are cleaning something for another person who has COVID-19 you should:

  • wear a mask and disposable gloves when handling soiled items
  • wash your hands immediately after removing gloves and masks
  • wash laundry. Do not shake the laundry items before washing
  • remove and wash clothes or bedding that has blood, body fluids and/or secretions on them
  • read and follow the directions on laundry items and detergent. Wash and dry with the warmest temperatures recommended on the label
  • wash dishes in a dishwasher where possible

Put gloves, masks, and other contaminated items in a lined waste bin before disposing of them with other household waste. Wash your hands immediately after handling these items.

How to get food and medication

You can get food and medication while in isolation in the following ways:

  • Ask friends or family members you don’t live with to get food and medication to leave at your door. If you need a prescription filled arrange this with your usual pharmacist or GP. You can then let your friend or family member know where to go to collect the medication.
  • Arrange a food delivery service. Have all food left outside your house. Do not let any delivery person into your home.
  • If you need a prescription filled, you can arrange for your doctor to send your prescription to your pharmacy. They can then deliver it to your house. Read more about getting medicines and accessing health services.

Returning to your community

Your Public health Unit will advise you when you are clear to end isolation and return to normal activities.

You must continue to practise physical distancing, and good hygiene.

If you become unwell and have any cold or flu like symptoms return home and contact your doctor.

Support services

There are a range of support services available to help you. You can do the following:

  • Visit Head to Health for links to trusted Australian mental health online and phone supports, resources and treatment options. This useful website also has online programs and forums, as well as a range of digital information resources.
Page last updated: 4 September 2020 Resource(s):Australian Government, Department of Health: Australian Government, Department of Health: