COVID-19 and coronavirus

Covid-19 is the disease

coronavirus is the virus that causes covid-19

COVID-19

What should I do if I have respiratory symptoms and/or fever?

Respiratory symptoms are one or more of cough, sore throat, breathlessness, congested or blocked nose, runny nose, sneezing, or loss of sense of smell.

Patients with confirmed COVID-19, or suspected COVID-19, will not be seen at Elwood Family Clinic. Why? Because the Clinic does not:

  • have space for isolating patients, to protect staff and other patients.

  • have a supply of 'Personal Protective Equipment' for GPs and staff.

  • provide testing for COVID-19.

For patients with confirmed COVID-19, or suspected COVID-19, the GPs at Elwood Family Clinic can provide help and advice by phone consultation or by video consultation.

The receptionists will ask all patients who phone the Clinic to make an appointment if they have respiratory symptoms and/or fever. The 'online appointment booking' page advises patients who have respiratory symptoms and/or fever not to book an appointment, and instead, to phone one of the Coronavirus hotlines.

If you have respiratory symptoms or a fever, you may have suspected COVID-19. In this case:

Please do not come to the Clinic to make an appointment

Either

Phone the Clinic. Depending on your symptoms, you will be advised to do one or more of the following:

  • Speak to one of the GPs (your call will be transferred to a GP, or a GP will call you back)

  • Make an appointment for a telehealth consultation (phone consultation or video consultation)

  • Make an appointment for a face-to-face consultation (if you do not have any symptoms that are suspicious for COVID-19)

  • Attend a COVID-19 Screening Clinic or Coronavirus Assessment Centre

  • Phone the National Coronavirus Helpline: 1800 020 080, or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline: 1800 675 398, for information and advice

  • Call an ambulance, 000 (triple zero)

Or

Phone the National Coronavirus Helpline: 1800 020 080, or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline: 1800 675 398, for information and advice

Or

If you have severe symptoms, in particular, if you are breathless, please call 000 for an ambulance

The Department of Health recommends that EVERYONE who has symptoms of an acute respiratory infection should get tested for COVID-19. Symptoms of an acute respiratory infection are one or more of: fever, cough, sore throat, breathlessness, congested or blocked nose, runny nose, loss of sense of smell.

The Department of Health also recommends that people who have one or more of the less common symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested for COVID-19 if they meet one or more of the following criteria: healthcare worker; contact with person who has confirmed COVID-19; overseas travel in the past 14 days. The less common symptoms are: aching muscles or joints, headache, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea

What is a 'close contact'?

A close contact is someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 , when that person was potentially infectious (when the person has symptoms, and up to two weeks before the onset of symptoms)

The Department of Health self-assessment tool will help you to determine the appropriate action to take. Click here.


If you have mild symptoms and the result of your COVID-19 test is negative:

  • You could have the 'common cold' or 'influenza'

  • Stay at home until your symptoms have resolved

  • Rest

  • Ensure you get a good fluid intake (2.5 - 3 litres per day for an adult)

  • Eat your usual food

  • For adults, take paracetamol 500mg, 1 or 2 tablets, every six hours as required for fever with symptoms, sore throat, headache, or aches and pains in your back or limbs. Don't exceed the maximum total dose of paracetamol (4g in 24 hours).

  • For adults, as an alternative to paracetamol, you can take ibuprofen 200mg, 1 or 2 tablets, every eight hours as required - provided that there are no reasons not to take ibuprofen (eg allergy, stomach ulcers, kidney disease, taking blood thinning medication, taking some diuretic and blood pressure medication, taking lithium). Don't exceed the maximum total dose of ibuprofen (1.2g in 24 hours).

  • The following have not been shown to be effective in treating the 'common cold' or 'influenza': antiviral drugs, echinacea, Vitamin C, Zinc, garlic

If the result of your COVID-19 test is positive, you must follow the instructions and advice that you will get from the Department of Health.


Testing for COVID-19

  • The test is a swab taken from the throat and the nose

  • Saliva tests are being introduced as an alternative to swab tests. These are not yet generally available

  • People without symptoms will not be tested (however, the Department of Health is testing some asymptomatic people, for example, health care workers, aged care facility workers, school staff, people who work in workplaces where there are outbreaks of COVID-19, close contacts of people who have COVID-19, and people living in areas where there are outbreaks of COVID-19)

  • All people being tested for COVID-19 must home isolate until test results are available (usually 3-5 days after the test is done). A person should attend an emergency department if their symptoms get worse.

  • Testing is done at the Alfred Hospital COVID-19 Screening Clinic, at special Respiratory Clinics, and at some general practices. We advise patients living in the Elwood area who require testing to attend the Alfred Hospital COVID-19 Screening Clinic

Click here for general information about testing for COVID-19

Click here for testing locations

Click here for testing locations (Healthdirect site: can search by postcode - recommended)


Who should get tested for COVID-19?

  • The Department of Health recommends that EVERYONE who has ANY symptoms of an acute respiratory infection - however mild - should get tested for COVID-19. Symptoms of an acute respiratory infection are one or more of: fever, cough, sore throat, breathlessness, runny nose, loss of sense of smell.

  • The Department of Health also recommends that people who have one or more of the less common symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested for COVID-19 if they meet one or more of the following criteria: healthcare worker; contact with person who has confirmed COVID-19; overseas travel in the past 14 days. The less common symptoms are: aching muscles or joints, headache, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea

Preventing COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 ('the virus') is transmitted from a person who has COVID-19 by virus-carrying droplets and virus particles in the air (called 'aerosol'). When a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, shouts, sings, - or even just talks, then virus-carrying droplets may be emitted from their mouth or nose. It's not known how far these droplets can travel - but probably at least 1 metre. When a person who has COVID-19 breathes out (exhales), then the air that they breathe out may contain virus particles. It's not known how far the virus can travel in the breath.

The virus can also be transmitted from your hands if you have touched something that has been contaminated by the virus. This occurs when a person who has COVID-19 has touched their mouth, nose, or eyes, and this has transferred some virus particles to their hands. The person has then touched something (another person's hand, a surface, an object), and this has transferred the virus to whatever they have touched. The virus can survive for several hours on surfaces, or objects, or people's hands - so the contaminated surface, object or hand can be infectious for several hours after they have been touched by the person who has COVID-19.

A person may get infected with 'the virus' if virus-carrying droplets, virus aerosol, or virus on a person's hands, make contact with the person's mouth, nose, or eyes.

To reduce your risk of getting the virus:

  • Reduce contact with other people

  • Stay at least 1.5 metres from other people ('social distancing')

  • Stay at home unless it's essential to leave home

  • Wash your hands 'often' (soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser)

  • Avoid touching your face and eyes

  • Wear a face mask when away from home

  • Keep surfaces at home clean

  • When a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 ('the virus') becomes available - get vaccinated



Should I wear a face mask?

Yes.

Always wear a face mask outside your home.

This advice is based on the latest review of evidence for using face masks, the 'precautionary principle' ('if it might work, it's worth doing'), and on the opinions expressed by many Australian and international experts. Also, the World Health Organisation recommends that people wear masks 'where physical distancing cannot be achieved'.

As a strategy for reducing the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 ('the virus'), wearing a mask is in addition to other strategies: stay at home, social distancing, and hand sanitising.

With effect from Wednesday 22 July, it is compulsory for ALL Victorians to wear a face mask or a face covering when they are outside their home.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends the use of single-use disposable surgical masks, or reusable cloth masks (also called fabric face coverings). These can be purchased from pharmacies and from hardware stores. They can also be made at home using the method described here.

The DHHS website has detailed information about the use of cloth masks. Click here.

If you have symptoms, then you must go to get tested, you must stay at home in isolation, and you must avoid contact with others in your household. The only reason to leave your home if you have symptoms is to go to get tested. You should wear a face mask or a face covering when travelling between your home and the testing centre. When you have had the test, you must go straight home.

If you have symptoms, and if it's not possible to avoid contact with others in your household, you should wear a mask. If you have confirmed COVID-19, you must stay at home, and you must follow the advice from the Victorian Department of Health on the use of masks. If you are caring for someone who has confirmed COVID-19, then you should follow the advice from the Victorian Department of Health on using a mask.

If you wear a mask, it must be used correctly. Please refer to guidelines for the use of masks. There are numerous resources on the internet. This infographic is useful (Google 'putting on a mask - RACGP').

Once you have put the mask on, do not touch it, as you risk contaminating your hands.

Surgical masks are 'use once only', and you must dispose of a surgical mask after you have removed it. Wash/sanitise your hands after removing a mask.

You can buy surgical masks from pharmacies. It's worth phoning around local pharmacies to check prices.

Fabric (cloth) face coverings must be washed daily, and dried before re-use. The term 'face coverings' is used rather than 'masks'. Here is a video of Dr Jerome Adams, USA Surgeon General, demonstrating how to make and how to put on a home-made cloth face covering, in about 30 seconds, using an old T-shirt and two rubber bands. (Dr Adams's old T-shirt has an interesting motif). Wash/sanitise your hands after removing the face covering.

The role of masks and face coverings in reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 ('the virus') is uncertain and controversial, as there is limited evidence. However, based on the 'precautionary principle', many countries recommend that their citizens wear masks to reduce transmission of the virus.

There is evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted as an aerosol - that is, as virus particles suspended in air. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is tiny - about 120 nanometres (or 0.12 microns). Can a mask prevent transmission of a virus particle? This is not known.

The best type of mask for reducing transmission of the virus is not known. Healthcare workers in clinical settings should use surgical masks or respirator masks (P2/N95). These masks are a component of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Face-shields, gowns, aprons, and gloves are also part of PPE. The objective of PPE is to protect the person who is using the PPE.

P2/N95 masks are not recommended for use by the general public.

It is not known if fabric masks and fabric face coverings are as effective as surgical masks.

Wearing a mask may reduce the risk of the mask wearer transmitting the virus to other people. Wearing a mask is about protecting others, not about protecting yourself. This is called 'source control'. In contrast, PPE is 'target control'. PPE aims to protect the mask wearer.

If a person is asymptomatic (has no symptoms of COVID-19) or pre-symptomatic (has the SARS-CoV-2 virus (coronavirus), but has not yet developed symptoms), then they unknowingly has the virus. If this person wears a mask, the risk of this person transmitting the infection to other people in public places may be reduced. (This is not relevant to symptomatic people as they must stay at home - they must not be out in public - and they should follow Department of Health advice on use of masks).

A common misconception is that wearing a mask protects the wearer from getting infected by the virus. Wearing a mask is not about protecting the wearer from the virus. Wearing a mask may help to reduce the risk of the mask wearer getting infected with the virus, but there isn't evidence to confirm this.

A face mask or fabric face covering must be worn at all times when you are away from your home - whether indoors or outdoors.

A face mask or fabric face covering is ineffective - or useless - if:

  • It is not worn correctly

  • It has not been washed at least daily (reusable fabric face covering only)

  • It is damp or wet

  • The top of the face mask or fabric face covering is below your nose

  • The mask is only over your chin - not over your nose and mouth

  • You are eating or drinking (which necessitates lowering the face mask or face covering)

Masks and face coverings must not be used on children under the age of 2, and they should not be used on children (under the age of 12), or on people with respiratory disorders, except on medical advice.

A face shield is a transparent plastic sheet which is worn over the face. The sheet is attached to a band which is worn around the forehead and the back of the head. The purpose of a face shield is to protect the wearer from virus-carrying droplets and splashes to the eyes and to the face. It does not provide 'source control'. It is not a substitute for a face mask or fabric face covering. If you wish to wear a face shield to protect your eyes from the virus, you must also wear a face mask or fabric face covering.

However, this advice contradicts the advice on the DHHS website, which indicates that a face shield is an acceptable alternative to a face mask or fabric face covering.

The DHHS website also indicates that a scarf or bandana may be used as a substitute for a face mask or fabric face covering. There is very little evidence that a scarf or a bandana is as effective as a face mask or fabric face covering. A face mask or fabric face covering is preferred for efficacy, although you will be complying with regulations if you wear a scarf or bandana. A scarf or bandana must cover the nose and the mouth with a firm fit so that there are no gaps between the face and the scarf or bandana.

Regularly check the Australian Department of Health and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services advisories on the use of masks, as the recommendations may change.

Where can I get a face mask?

Single-use surgical masks (also called 'medical masks') and reusable fabric face masks can be purchased at pharmacies, supermarkets, and hardware stores. Elwood Family Clinic does not sell masks.

You can buy reusable fabric face masks from the 'Laundry Box', 12 Ormond Road, Elwood. The 'Laundry Box' make these masks. The masks meet DHHS standards. The masks cost $20 each.

'What can I do? What can't I do?'

Please refer to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website for information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) - restrictions, testing, symptoms, prevention, support, and resources. Click here

Victoria is under a state of emergency, which confers powers on the Chief Health Officer to protect public health, and a state of disaster, which confers powers on the Police and Emergency Services Minister to enforce restrictions. The state of emergency will end on 6 December.

The Victorian Government is directing all Melbourne residents to 'stay safe' to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Every Melbourne resident must play their part. By staying at home and limiting contact with other people, we can protect the elderly, the at-risk, and our healthcare workers, and each other.

It’s critical that:

  • you maintain 'social distancing'. Keep at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others. 1.5 metres is approximately the distance from fingertips to fingertips when an adult stretches out their arms from their sides. There should be no more than 1 person per 4 square metres (2 metres x 2 metres)

  • you wear a surgical mask or fabric face covering when away from home

  • you practise good hygiene (hand washing and/or hand sanitising, avoiding touching your face, and coughing into disposable tissues, or into the bend in your elbow if you have no tissues)

  • you download the COVIDSafe App to your smartphone, and you use the App

  • if you have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 - even if the symptoms are very mild - you must get a COVID-19 test, and you must self-isolate (stay at home) until you get confirmation of a negative result. If the result is positive, then you must follow the instructions of the DHHS regarding isolation and testing.

  • if you feel unwell, even if you have tested negative for coronavirus, it is vital that you stay at home.

  • if you are a 'contact' or a 'contact-of-a-contact' of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, then you must follow the instructions of the DHHS regarding quarantine and testing.

Current 'Third Step' restrictions mean:

  • Face masks must be worn when you leave home

  • You can leave your home, for any reason, without time limit, and without travel restriction. You can travel into regional Victoria (and people in regional Victoria can travel into Melbourne)

  • You can meet others outdoors. Group size will be limited to ten, from one or more households.

  • Two adults and their dependants are permitted to visit you, once daily, in your home (without time limit). The two adults can be from different households.

  • With restrictions on numbers of customers, retail businesses, hairdressers, barbers, hospitality businesses (cafes, restaurants, and pubs) gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, and theatres can open

  • With some restrictions on numbers, golf, bowling, swimming, tennis, and some other sports are permitted.

  • With some restrictions, libraries, entertainment venues, and outdoor venues are open

  • With some restrictions, weddings, funerals, and religious gatherings are permitted

  • You can return to work, but if you can work from home, then you must work from home.

Industries and businesses must have a COVIDSafe Plan. Details here.

There are restrictions on visiting people in hospital (eg one household can visit a person in hospital, or a resident in an aged care facility, once daily, for up to two hours, with no time limit for parents visiting their children in hospital). Visitors must wear a face mask. Details here, and here.

These restrictions will be in place until reviewed, and some of the restrictions may be removed or extended at that time, with the aims of helping with people's mental health, physical health, and wellbeing, and enabling people to have more social activities and more social connection. Easing restrictions will also be necessary for economic and employment reasons.

Please download the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Home Safety Plan

There is a four step 'roadmap' for moving to 'COVID Normal'. Click here

How can a GP help during the coronavirus pandemic?

A GP can:

  • Listen to how you're feeling, and listen to how the situation is affecting you and your family

  • Empathise with you

  • Provide care, help, and support

  • Provide advice on self-care

  • Help with your mental well-being

  • Assess and manage your symptoms and your concerns

  • Provide continuing care for chronic disease and preventive activities

  • Provide video and phone consultations for general medical care

  • Provide video and phone consultations for people who have COVID-19


Resources for information and advice about COVID-19