Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • The risk of transmission in Australia remains low; however, the situation is evolving. Western Australians should remain alert, but not be alarmed.
  • You do not need to wear a face mask if you're healthy. While the use of masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public.
  • If you suspect you may have coronavirus symptoms or may have had close contact with a person who has coronavirus, you should contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

WA Health is working closely with the Commonwealth and other state and territory governments to respond to an outbreak of a novel coronavirus that has emerged in Wuhan, China.

Australia has one of the best health systems in the world and is prepared to deal with the situation.

Read the Frequently asked questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) (PDF 309KB).

For more information relating to COVID-19 and health professionals, aged care, travel and tourism, employers and other industries, visit the Department of Health (external site).

What are coronaviruses and what is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in humans and animals. Human coronavirus illnesses are generally mild such as the common cold. However, some coronaviruses can cause severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was identified in 2002, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which was identified in 2012.

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. It is a new strain of coronaviruses that hasn’t previously been identified in humans. COVID-19 is closely related to SARS and in the same family of viruses as MERS.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronavirus can cause a range of symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience:

  • fever
  • flu like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headaches
  • difficulty breathing.
Who is most at risk of coronavirus?

People who live in, or have recently travelled to, China or had contact with a confirmed case may be at risk of becoming unwell.

Some people may be at higher risk of infection, such as people who have other illnesses that suppress the immune system or make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease. This includes people with lung disease or diabetes, those who have suppressed immune systems, and the elderly.

How is coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 can be spread from person-to-person.

This can happen when a person comes into contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person, for example through coughing or sneezing.

Spread of this coronavirus from person-to-person is usually between close contacts. Close contacts are those people who have been face-to-face with a person infected with the virus for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours with an infected person.

How can we help prevent the spread of coronavirus?

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is by practising good hand hygiene and sneeze/cough etiquette. This includes:

  • frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand gel
  • refraining from touching mouth and nose
  • if coughing or sneezing, covering your nose and mouth with a paper tissue or flexed elbow – dispose of the tissue immediately after use and perform hand hygiene
  • avoiding close contact with anyone if you, or they, have a cold or flu-like symptoms (maintain a distance of at least 1 metre).

Do I need to wear a face mask?

You do not need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like coronavirus.

For more information see:

Fact sheet for the community on when and how to use a face mask (PDF 309KB) *updated 18 February

​Fact sheet for the community on when and how to use a face mask – Mandarin (PDF 624KB)

When is self-quarantine and self-isolation required?

Self-quarantine (suspected cases/close contacts)

Self-quarantine is different to self-isolation. Self-quarantine is required for suspected cases of COVID-19. This means you must stay in your home, hotel room, or other accommodation even if you are perfectly well with no symptoms. The only time you should leave your home/accommodation is to seek medical attention. When you are in self-quarantine you cannot attend public places such as work, school, shopping centres or go on a holiday.

You must self-quarantine yourself in the following circumstances to help limit the spread of coronavirus:

  • If you have left, or transited through, mainland China in the last 14 days, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of leaving mainland China.
  • If you have been in close contact with a proven case of coronavirus, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case.

It is especially important for people who are in self-quarantine to take special care to avoid sensitive settings for 14 days, such as:

  • health care
  • aged care
  • child care and school facilities.

Self-isolation (confirmed cases)

If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 and are well enough to be at home you must remain in self-isolation. This is different to self-quarantine as it requires a few more actions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you are in self-isolation you must stay in your home, hotel room, or other accommodation. The only time you should leave your home/accommodation is to seek medical attention. This means you cannot attend public places such as work, school, shopping centres or go on a holiday.

In addition, people in self-isolation must follow appropriate infection control measures such as:

  • wearing a surgical mask when you are in the same room with other people (irrespective of whether they are also in isolation or not),
  • covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough,
  • washing your hands often and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, and
  • ensuring that you do not share household items with other people in your home.

You must stay in your place of isolation and not go out, except to seek medical care, for the length of time as advised by your doctor or public health unit.

Self-quarantine and self-isolation are important for protecting your family, friends and the Western Australian community.

Medical certificates are not required for people who need to self-quarantine.

Learn more about self-quarantine (self-isolation):

What about returning to schools and early childhood centres?

Students and staff must refer to the advice in 'When is self-quarantine and self-isolation required?' above. Parents of children should read the instructions for further information.

The relevant school or childcare centre should be notified. Students may want to seek alternative arrangements for remote learning keeping in mind that the isolation period, provided the person remains well, is a maximum of 14 days.

If a child has a recent travel history to mainland China and develops symptoms, they should contact their GP. Their GP will liaise with Public Health Units and determine whether the child needs a medical assessment.

For more information see the links below or call the Coronavirus Health Information Line, on 1800 020 080.

Advice for schools about self-isolation requirement for novel coronavirus (PDF 126KB) updated 16 February

​​Advice for schools about self-isolation requirement for novel coronavirus – Mandarin (PDF 261KB)

​Information for parents, schools and early childhood centres – English (PDF 149KB) *updated 16 February

Information for parents, schools and early childhood centres – Mandarin (PDF 346KB) *updated 18 February

Read information about returning to your community (external site).

What if I become unwell and suspect I have coronavirus?

If you have travelled or transited through mainland China in the last 14 days (or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19) and you become unwell (with COVID-19 like symptoms as above), you must seek medical attention:

  • If you are very unwell (such as experiencing shortness of breath) and need urgent medical help call 000.
  • If you are attending a general practice or other medical centre, it is important to ring ahead of time to make your doctor aware of your symptoms and your travel history.
  • If you attend an emergency department at a hospital, please let staff know immediately on arrival of your symptoms and your travel history.

For general queries or for further advice on how to seek medical attention, phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. If a non-English speaker needs help, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (external site) or phone 131 450.

More information

Last reviewed: 18-02-2020

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Coronavirus information line number on orange background