Who is most at risk?

The following information is from the Australian Government Health Department:


In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are:

  • travellers who have recently been overseas
  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people in correctional and detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings

People who are, or are more likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they get the virus are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • people 70 years and older
  • people with compromised immune systems

At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

There is limited evidence at this time regarding the risk in pregnant women.

See our advice for people at risk.


Some people are more at risk than others of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.


Conditions that increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Anyone could develop serious or severe illness from COVID-19 but those with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems are at greater risk.

If you are working and you have a chronic condition or your immune system is compromised, talk to your employer or workplace about having a risk assessment.

Chronic conditions that put you at greater risk

These conditions increase your risk if you are aged over 65, or if you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person aged over 50:

  • chronic renal failure
  • coronary heart disease
  • congestive cardiac failure
  • chronic lung disease such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, suppurative lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic emphysema
  • poorly controlled diabetes
  • poorly controlled hypertension

Immune system conditions that put you at greater risk

You are at increased risk at any age if your immune system is significantly weakened:

  • due to haematologic neoplasms such as leukemias, lymphomas and myelodysplastic syndromes
  • post-transplant, if you have had a solid organ transplant and are on immunosuppressive therapy
  • post-transplant, if you have had a haematopoietic stem cell transplant in the last 24 months or are on treatment for graft versus host disease (GVHD)
  • by primary or acquired immunodeficiency including HIV infection
  • by having chemotherapy or radiotherapy

Medical treatments that put you at greater risk

You are also at increased risk if you take any biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (bDMARD) or any of the following immunosuppressive drugs:

  • azathioprine, more than 3 mg per kg per day
  • 6-mercaptopurine, more than 1.5 mg per kg per day
  • methotrexate, more than 0.4 mg per kg per week
  • high-dose corticosteroids (20 mg or more of prednisone per day or equivalent) for 14 days or more
  • tacrolimus
  • cyclosporine
  • cyclophosphamide
  • mycophenolate
  • any combination of these or other DMARDs

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis. They suppress the immune system and this slows the development of the arthritis.

Some DMARDS have a broad effect on the immune system while the biological DMARDS target specific parts of the immune system.



Page last updated 23 April 2020


Resource(s)Australian Government, Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19Australian Government, Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19Australian Government, Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-chronic-health-conditions