COVID-19 and coronavirus

Covid-19 is the disease

coronavirus is the virus that causes covid-19

COVID-19

COVID-19 VACCINES


All Australians aged 12 or older should get vaccinated against COVID-19, with the following exceptions:

For the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

· Children under 18 years old

· People with current or previous rare, atypical blood clotting disorders (cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT), heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), and anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS))

· Anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or a known allergy to one of the other ingredients in the vaccine

· Women who are pregnant

· Women who are breastfeeding

For the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer (Comirnaty))

· Children under 12 years old

· People with current acute heart disorders (acute heart failure, acute cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, pericarditis)

· Anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of Pfizer, or a known allergy to one of the other ingredients in the vaccine, including polyethylene glycol (PEG)

For the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Spikevax)

· Children under 12 years old

· Anaphylaxis (a type of severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (that is, Moderna or Pfizer (Comirnaty)

· Anaphylaxis to any other ingredient in the vaccine, including polyethylene glycol (PEG)

· Myocarditis and/or pericarditis attributed to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (that is, Moderna or Pfizer (Cominarty))


AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine – two doses required

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are needed to give the vaccine’s maximum protection (immunity). The best protection (immunity) is from at least two weeks after the second dose. The doses are given 6 to 12 weeks apart.


AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (or TTS) is an extremely rare ‘atypical’ blood clotting disorder. It is also an extremely rare effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In TTS, the body’s immune system causes platelets (a special type of blood cell) to break down so that you have fewer platelets in your bloodstream. Platelets are the sticky cells in your blood that stop you bleeding when there is a cut. Having fewer platelets triggers the body’s clotting system (coagulation system) to form blood clots in veins. Blood clots can develop in the head, the abdomen (stomach area), or sometimes in other parts of the body.

The symptoms of TTS may include one or more of severe persistent headache, severe persistent abdominal pain, pain in the leg, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, blurred vision, and difficulty speaking. A person who gets any of these symptoms starting 4 days to 6 weeks after they get a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine must get urgent medical attention so that TTS can be confirmed or ruled out. The diagnosis and treatment of TTS are straightforward. People diagnosed with TTS are usually admitted to hospital for up to a week for treatment. There are many other possible causes for these symptoms, but in this situation, TTS must be ruled out before making another diagnosis.

For every one million people who get a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, there will be 17 to 35 people who will get TTS and recover, and one or two people who will get TTS and die from it .

To keep things in perspective, the so-called ‘typical’ blood clot disorders are much more common than the ‘atypical’ blood clot disorders.

The ‘typical’ blood clot disorders are NOT related to TTS. In the typical blood clot disorders, platelets clump together, and the coagulation system (clotting system) forms clots around the platelets, so that localised blood clots form. The number of platelets doesn’t fall. Typical blood clot disorders are deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which usually causes blood clots to form in veins in the legs, and pulmonary embolus (PE), which causes blood clots to form in veins in the lungs. Blood clots can also occur in some types of heart attack and stroke, with blood clots forming in arteries.

The overall risk of getting DVT and/or PE over a period of one year is about one person in one thousand people. This is the same as about 115 people in one million people over a six-week period. This compares to the 17 to 35 people in one million people who may get TTS in a six-week period after getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (If TTS occurs, the onset is typically 4 to 42 days (6 weeks) after the dose of vaccine).

So, although there is appropriate concern about TTS after the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, a person who gets a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is actually at least three times more likely to get a ‘typical’ blood clot (not related to the vaccine) than to get TTS related to the vaccine.

Also, the risk of getting DVT and/or PE is about one person in five people who get severe COVID-19. The numbers of people with mild or moderate COVID-19 who get DVT and/or PE are not known.


People who have current or previous typical blood clot disorders (e.g., DVT, PE, stroke, or heart attack) are at no more risk of getting TTS after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine than people who do not have current or previous typical blood clot disorders. It is safe for people with current or previous typical blood clot disorders to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Pfizer vaccine – two doses required

Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are needed to give the vaccine’s maximum protection (immunity). The best protection (immunity) is from at least two weeks after the second dose. The doses are given three to six weeks apart.

Pfizer vaccine and myocarditis

Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and/or inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis) are extremely uncommon effects of the Pfizer vaccine. If myocarditis and/or pericarditis occur after the Pfizer vaccine, the illness is mild. Most cases occur in younger adults and are more likely in males than females. It usually starts 1 to 5 days after the vaccination. The symptoms may include one or more of: chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeat), syncope (fainting), breathlessness, and fatigue. Myocarditis and/or pericarditis are readily diagnosed and treated. The overall risk of myocarditis or pericarditis after Pfizer vaccine is about 20 in one million doses of the vaccine. Myocarditis and pericarditis are more likely after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine than after the first dose of vaccine.

Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines

While a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be needed at some time, the timing and type of COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be determined. If a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently given less than 14 days after the first dose, then a third dose, as a replacement dose, should be given. The timing of this replacement dose should be discussed with a vaccination provider.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for people with medical conditions

Other than the exceptions listed above, there are no medical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccines are safe, and they are recommended for everyone aged 12 and over (18 and over for AstraZeneca vaccine), including people who have or have had one or more medical conditions, particularly as people who have or have had medical conditions may be at increased risk for getting COVID-19 and at increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.


Vaccines – minor adverse effects

For every 10 people who get a COVID-19 vaccine, 4, 5, or 6 of them will be expected to get one or more adverse effects. 4, 5, or 6 of them will have no adverse effects. Adverse effects, if they occur, are mild, typically starting 12-24 hours after the vaccine was administered, and lasting for 1-3 days. No treatment is necessary if adverse effects occur, however rest may be helpful, and paracetamol may be helpful to relieve any discomfort. Most people should be able to continue with their normal activities, studies, and work. However, some people may need to a day or two off work or study because of adverse effects.

Adverse effects may be one or more of the following:

· Adverse effects at the site of the injection (upper arm): pain, tenderness, swelling, redness. (If the swelling extends above the shoulder and below the elbow, you should see a doctor to get checked).

· Generalised adverse effects: fever, chills, fatigue, aching muscles, aching joints, headache, nausea.

There are no factors that increase or reduce the risk of getting these minor adverse effects.

If you get adverse effects with the first dose, you will not necessarily get adverse effects with the second dose.

With AstraZeneca vaccine, adverse effects are more likely to occur with the first dose than with the second dose.

With Pfizer vaccine, adverse effects are more likely to occur with the second dose than with the first dose.

Overall, the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine are equally likely to cause (or not cause) minor adverse effects.

Minor adverse effects reflect the immune system’s response to the vaccine. However, the level of immunity got from the vaccine is unrelated to the severity of any adverse effects. So, contrary to the myth, getting severe adverse effects after a COVID-19 vaccine does not mean that you will get better immunity than if you got mild adverse effects or no adverse effects after a COVID-19 vaccine.

The level of immunity may be lower for people whose medical conditions or medications suppress their immune systems – this would apply to AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines.


Long Covid

For every ten people who get COVID-19, one of them will go on to develop long Covid.

This is a ‘best guess estimate’. Some studies have suggested that as many as four people will go on to develop long Covid out of ten people who have got COVID-19.

This reflects variability in the data about long Covid. Different studies use different definitions for long Covid and different ways of identifying people who are affected by long Covid.

The risk of getting long Covid after getting COVID-19 may be lower in people who have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to people who are unvaccinated.

Long Covid is characterized by symptoms lasting more than 4 weeks after the initial onset of COVID-19 symptoms. It is not unusual for the symptoms of long Covid to last for 6-12 months or more. Symptoms may include one or more of: fatigue, weakness, brain fog (difficulty thinking, difficulty concentrating, poor memory), breathlessness, cough, depression, loss or change of sense of taste, loss or change of sense of smell, persistent headache, change in appetite, and rashes. The symptoms can have a remitting and relapsing pattern, that is the symptoms can ‘come and go in waves’. It can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s relationships, work, and normal activities.

There is no treatment for long COVID. However, some reports have suggested that people with long Covid who get COVID-19 vaccination will get some improvement in their symptoms.

The risk of getting long Covid may be higher for:

· older people

· females

· people who are obese

· people who have chronic respiratory disease (e.g., asthma).

· people who have had severe COVID-19

· people who experienced more than five symptoms during their acute illness with COVID-19

These risks have not been quantified.

While the risk of getting long Covid increases with the severity of COVID-19, a person can still get long Covid after mild COVID-19, or even after asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.

People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 can subsequently develop long Covid.

There is much uncertainty about long Covid. There are not yet any definite answers to the following questions.

· How common is long Covid?

· What are my chances of getting long Covid if I have COVID-19?

· How long does long Covid last?

· If I have been vaccinated, and I get COVID-19, am I less likely to get long Covid than if I had been unvaccinated?

· How can I prevent long Covid?

· What treatments work?

· Is one vaccine better than the others for preventing long Covid?

· If I have recovered from COVID-19, can I still go on to develop long Covid at some time in the future?

Answers to these and many other questions about long Covid will become clearer with ongoing study and research.

Benefits of vaccination with two doses of a a COVID-19 vaccine


· Feeling less worried about getting COVID-19

· Protection from death and severe disease due to COVID-19

· Reduced risk of getting mild or moderate COVID-19

· Reduced risk of getting long COVID

· Reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) to other people whether you have symptoms or not

· For men, reduced risk of developing infertility and/or erectile dysfunction due to COVID-19 (COVID-19 has not yet been conclusively confirmed as a possible cause of male infertility and/or erectile dysfunction)

· Able to work in workplaces and for employers with a mandatory requirement for vaccination

· Access to hospitality venues, entertainment venues, sports stadiums, etc., that have vaccination as a condition for entry

· Travel restrictions may be reduced for people who are fully vaccinated (two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine)

· Every person who gets vaccinated is contributing to Australia’s pandemic exit ‘road map’

o Once 80% of the Australian population aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated, then, based on ‘modelling’, it is likely that there will be

§ fewer deaths due to COVID-19, fewer people getting admitted to hospital for treatment of COVID-19,

§ fewer lockdowns,

§ a return towards normal for work, education, the economy, recreation, and travel

§ improved wellbeing and mental health for everyone

o However, the number of mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 may increase.

· Helping:

o scientists to learn about the effects and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,

o with the development of new vaccines,

o the global response to the pandemic,

o to reduce global disease and deaths due to COVID-19, and

o the world to a new normal for wellbeing, lifestyle, employment, education, the economy, business, and travel.

What you will avoid by getting vaccinated against COVID-19


· Symptoms of COVID-19

o Mild COVID-19 and moderate COVID-19 are illnesses lasting two to four weeks with one or more of the following symptoms:

§ Fever

§ Cough

§ Difficulty breathing

§ Sore throat

§ Fatigue

§ Change or loss of sense of smell and/or taste

§ Other distressing symptoms (headache, stomach pain, nausea, etc.)

o Severe COVID-19 causes similar symptoms, but the symptoms are more severe, and treatment in hospital (medical ward or Intensive Care Unit) is necessary.

· Symptoms of long COVID

o Symptoms lasting for more than four weeks, and potentially lasting for months; one or more of the following:

§ fatigue,

§ ‘brain fog’ (difficulty thinking, difficulty concentrating, poor memory),

§ breathlessness,

§ weakness,

§ cough,

§ loss or change of smell and/or taste,

§ persistent headache,

§ depression,

§ rashes,

§ difficulties with work, study, and normal activities

· Other effects of COVID-19

o Isolation for a minimum of 14 days from onset of symptoms

o Incapacity for work or study due to symptoms and isolation

o Risk of transmitting the infection to others (family, friends, work colleagues, people in the community)

o Being responsible for close contacts having to quarantine for 14 days



Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 helps hospitals, health services, doctors, nurses, and health practitioners


· You are helping health care workers, hospitals, and health services.

· Getting vaccinated is a way of showing respect and appreciation for health care workers for their response to COVID-19.

· Fewer people with severe COVID-19 means less demand on health care workers, hospitals, and health services.

· Hospitals and health services are less likely to be overwhelmed. If hospitals and health services become overwhelmed, they have difficulty providing care for all patients, not just the patients who have COVID-19.

· Hospitals and health services are more likely to be able to provide their usual care, including elective surgery.

· Nurses, doctors, and allied health practitioners working on the ‘front line’ in managing patients with COVID-19 have been working exceptionally hard and working long hours. Many are exhausted. Fewer people with severe COVID-19 will reduce some of the considerable stress on the health care workforce





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 or change of sense of smell or taste.

Patients with confirmed COVID-19, or suspected COVID-19, will not be seen on-site at St Kilda Medical Group. 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 all GPs and all staff.

  • provide testing for COVID-19.

For patients with confirmed COVID-19, or suspected COVID-19, the GPs 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. EFC fully supports this recommendation. Symptoms? --> Get tested! 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. The less common symptoms are: aching muscles or joints, headache, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea

The Department of Health mandates that people who are contacts or potential contacts of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 must get tested and quarantine according the to the tier of the exposure site. Tier 1 - get tested immediately, quarantine for 14 days, and notify the Department of Health; Tier 2 - get tested immediately, and quarantine until you get a negative COVID-19 test result.

The Victorian Department of Health 'hotline' for all enquiries about COVID-19, and for making appointments for COVID-19 vaccination is 1800 675 398

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.

The Department of Health also defines contact by 'tiers' based on the risk associated with the site where contact occurred. For example, groups at indoor sites are 'high risk'. Individuals in outdoor areas are at lower risk. Based on these definitions, people will be required to do one of the following:

  1. Get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days, or

  2. Get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they get a negative test result, or

  3. Monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop, get tested and isolate until they get a negative result.

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 your symptoms are not improving, phone your GP for advice. You may need to get re-tested for COVID-19. You may need to attend a Respiratory Clinic or hospital.

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 unless advised to get tested by the Department of Health (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, people in hotel quarantine, 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 12-24 hours after the test is done). A person should attend an emergency department if their symptoms get worse. You must wear a mask if you attend an emergency department.

  • Testing is done at the Alfred Hospital COVID-19 Screening Clinic, at special Respiratory Clinics, and at some general practices. There are 'drive through' Testing Clinics at MSAC and at Chadstone Shopping Centre. 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. 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' or physical 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.

It is advisable to wear a surgical face mask or fabric face covering at all times when you are outside of your home - whether indoors or outdoors. It is mandatory to wear a mask or fabric face covering when required by the Chief Health Officer's orders (for example, during lockdown).

If someone in your household is isolating because they have COVID-19, or they are quarantining as a contact of COVID-19, then the person should stay in a separate room from others in the household, and should, if possible use a separate bathroom, and separate cutlery etc. You should wear a face mask when in the house.

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.

Even when it is not compulsory for Victorians to wear a mask outdoors or at cafes and restaurants, masks must be worn when travelling on public transport, travelling in taxis and rideshare services (eg Uber), and when visiting hospitals and aged care facilities. Masks must be worn outdoors in situations where you cannot maintain 1.5m of social distancing.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends the use of single-use disposable surgical masks, or reusable three-layer cloth masks (also called fabric face coverings). These can be purchased from pharmacies and from hardware stores. A face-shield is NOT a substitute for a surgical mask or fabric face covering. A face-shield provides droplet protection, particularly for the eyes, and it can be used in conjunction with a mask.

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. The top of the mask must be over your nose. The top of the mask must not be below your nose. Please refer to guidelines for the use of masks. There are numerous resources on the internet.

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 and supermarkets. It's worth phoning around local pharmacies to check prices.

Fabric (cloth) face coverings must be washed and thoroughly rinsed daily (warm detergent - do not use antiseptic/bleach/etc), and dried before re-use. The term 'face coverings' is used rather than 'masks'.

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 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 have 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.

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 sells 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.

Melbourne is currently under 'Lockdown'. You are required to stay within 5Km of your home. You are required to stay at home. There are 5 exceptions to the requirement to 'stay at home'. Once-daily shopping (one person per household); getting exercise (up to 2 hours); getting medical care or providing care; essential work (the Department of Health website defines essential work); and getting vaccinated.

Cafes and restaurants can open for take-away service only. Supermarkets and food shops can open. Medical clinics, Pharmacies, and Post Offices can open.

You cannot visit other people in their homes, unless you have formed an exclusive 'social bubble' with someone in a single-person household.

There are limits on social gatherings, weddings, and funerals.

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

  • you take a surgical mask or fabric face covering with you whenever you leave home.

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

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

  • you sign in to shops, cafes, restaurants, offices, and businesses using the QR code and the Services Victoria 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 until your symptoms have completely resolved.

  • 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/isolation and testing.

Face masks

  • You must carry a face mask with you when you leave home, unless you have a lawful reason not to wear a mask.

  • Face masks must be worn:

    • on public transport, in commercial passenger vehicles such as taxis and ride share vehicles, and in tour vehicles

    • by visitors to a hospital

    • by visitors to a care facility

    • on flights to and from Victoria

    • indoors at airports

    • if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, or a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, at all times while away from your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as medical care or to get tested

    • while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test when leaving your home or accommodation for a permitted reason, such as medical care (except as part of a surveillance or other asymptomatic testing program)

    • while experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

  • It is strongly recommended you wear a face mask when at a private gathering or when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people, including outdoors.

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

  • 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