An increasing number of us are being required to “self-isolate” or “self-quarantine”, to stop the spread of the new strain of coronavirus known as COVID-19 — and the penalties for breaking the rules should give you an inkling of just how important this is. States and territories are imposing hefty fines and even jail time for people who’ve been told to self-isolate and don’t comply.
For those who are at increased risk of developing the virus but don’t have symptoms, self-isolation means that you stay home or in your hotel for 14 days and don’t leave unless there’s an emergency, even to go to places such as shopping centres. It’s also important not to have any visitors over. During this time, watch for fever, sore throat, cough, tiredness or shortness of breath and contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
Who needs to self-isolate?
The Department of Health has mandated that you must self-isolate if you’ve:
- been diagnosed with COVID-19
- had close contact with someone who has tested positive for it
- arrived in Australia from overseas
Various state and territory governments have put in place their own rules, with some requiring anyone who crosses their borders to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. For the latest requirements, check this page from the Department of Health, and your state or territory health body.
Why do you need to self-isolate?
When someone has been infected with the new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) they can pass it on to others when they talk, sneeze, cough or exhale. Nearby people might contract the virus by breathing in tiny infected droplets, or by touching a contaminated surface, and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. The trouble is, you can spread the virus even when your symptoms are mild or before you realise you’re sick. Since the virus spreads easily in close contact, and there’s no specific treatment yet, it’s really important to take extra steps to protect everyone in your community (including yourself and the people you love).
What about “social distancing?”
As the number of cases grows in Australia, it’s becoming more important that as many of us as possible stay home to help prevent the virus from spreading. When you do have to go out, keep plenty of space between yourself and those around you to reduce the chance of either contracting the virus or unknowingly passing it on to others. The Department of Health recommends one person for every four square metres or staying 1.5 metres apart. For more information from the Department of Health, click here.
What do you have to do when you’re self-isolating?
The exact precautions you’ll need to take will be different depending on whether you’re at increased risk but have no symptoms, or if you’re unwell and have symptoms of COVID-19.
This information sheet from the Department of Health explains what to do if you’re self-isolating but you’re not currently sick.
This factsheet from the Department of Health explains what to do if you have symptoms of the new coronavirus or have tested positive for it, but are not so sick that you need to go to hospital.
Tips to help you cope
- It can help to remind yourself that self-isolation won’t last forever, and you’re doing it for the ‘greater good’. By staying inside you’re helping to stop the virus from spreading and keeping your community safe.
- Make an extra effort to stay connected with friends, colleagues, neighbours and family that don’t live with you. Check in on each other, especially people who live alone, were already struggling or may be more likely to feel the impact of isolation. Plan video chats, phone calls, group message conversations and virtual get togethers and look for opportunities to connect, network, laugh, commiserate, catch up and share ideas online.
- If you’re feeling tense or anxious, it can help to learn some strategies to help you relax and reduce stress. These can include controlled breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness or meditation.
- Make an effort to stay physically active — exercise can reduce stress, lift your mood and help you stay well. Many gyms, yoga studios and some workplaces are offering online classes, and you’ll find plenty of ideas on YouTube if you search for workouts you can do at home. Just be sure to start slow and gradually build up if you’re not used to exercising. Be particularly careful if you’ve been diagnosed with the virus – keep moving around your home but avoid strenuous exercise.
- For more tips and information on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak, check out this article.
- If you have children, make an extra effort to reassure them. This article has tips for helping to support your kids and teenagers through this time.
Reach out for support if you’re struggling
24/7 Medibank Mental Health Phone Support If you’re a Medibank member with hospital cover* you can call 1800 644 325 to speak to a mental health professional for confidential support, advice or information. We are increasing the number of health experts to keep up with higher demand, but please be patient if wait times are a little longer than expected.
*OSHC members should call the Student Health & Support Line on 1800 887 283.
For more about how to stay mentally well during this time, check out this resource from Beyond Blue.