Settlement Guide

COVID-19: all you need to know if you are in Australia

A sign is seen on the roadside on Guildford Road in Perth, Saturday, March 28, 2020. Source: AAP

SBS is dedicated to providing trusted reporting that keeps you informed about the COVID-19 outbreak in your language. This fact sheet compiles must-know information for everyone in the community.

Stay home.   Stay safe.   Stay connected.   Save lives.

SBS COVID-19 State by State information, CLICK HERE

Financial difficulties

If you are facing financial difficulties go to or call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. 

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment

  • The Federal Government has introduced a $1,500 "disaster payment" for paid pandemic leave. It's available for workers in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and New South Wales.

More info:

  • Queensland is adjusting the agreement with the Federal Government and is likely to join soon.
  • The payment applies to workers who need to self-isolate but do not have sick leave or payments through JobKeeper or JobSeeker. It’s expected to also benefit short-term visa holders. 

Jobseeker and Jobkeeper payments

The JobKeeper payments will be extended until March 2021, and JobSeeker until December 2020. In the coming months, the government will announce the 2021 plans for JobSeeker.


JobSeeker Payment is for people between 22 years and Pension age, when you're unemployed and looking for work, or doing approved activities to find a job. It also applies if you are sick or injured and can't do your usual work or study.

Single: $815

Single with dependent child: $862

Single 60 or over: $862

Partnered: $760

More info:

From the end of September, you can now earn $300 a fortnight, instead of the previous $106, before your JobSeeker payment is affected.

From August 4 anyone receiving the unemployment benefit must connect with employment services and undertake four job searches a month, in order to continue receiving the payment.


The Jobkeeper payment applies to people of at least 16 years of age, who are sole traders, full-time, part-time, or long-term casuals employed on a regular basis for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020.Those aged 16 or 17 must be financially independent to qualify.

The payment has been split into "two tiers", one for full-time and another one for part-time workers.

Full time workers fortnightly payments:

- Now: $1,200
- From January 2021: $1,000

Part time workers fortnightly payments:

- Now: $750
- From January 2021: $650 

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through:

  • Close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared.
  • Close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes.
  • Touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.

The Australian government suggests to all residents to download the COVIDSafe app. Read more

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Coronavirus symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia, according to the Federal Government's website.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other cases of colds and flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other symptoms can include runny nose, headache, muscle or joint pains, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of sense of smell, altered sense of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue.

The authorities have developed a COVID19 Symptom Checker that you can use from home:

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, but most of the symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

What do I do if I develop symptoms?

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of arriving in Australia or within 14 days of having contact with someone who has been confirmed with COVID-19, you should call your doctor to arrange a time or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. Don’t visit a health clinic or hospital without informing them you have symptoms. 

Before you arrive, telephone the health clinic or hospital and tell them your travel history or that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. You must remain isolated either in your home, hotel or in health care until public health authorities confirm that it is safe for you to return to your usual activities. 

If you want to talk to someone about your symptoms, call the National Coronavirus Helpline for advice. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1800 020 080 

The Australian Government is rapidly establishing GP respiratory clinics around the country to clinically assess people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms (a fever, cough, shortness of breath, a sore throat and/or tiredness). 

Find out if there is a GP respiratory clinic in your state/territory and near your area and how to register for an appointment: 

If there is not yet one in your area, visit healthdirect or your state or territory health department website for more information on fever clinics and other available services. 

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 


Who is most at risk of a serious illness?

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly. From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection 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. Conditions included in the definition of ‘chronic medical conditions’ will be refined as more evidence emerges.
  • People 70 years and older
  • People with compromised immune systems

How can you help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping your distance from others when you are sick is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

  • Not leave your home unless you have to.
  • Maintain social distance of at least 1.5 metres and observe the 1 person per 4 square metre rule.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • If you're unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).
  • Exercise personal responsibility and stay at home as much as possible.

Who is obliged to self-isolate?

1) All people who arrive in Australia after midnight 15 March 2020, or think they may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

2) All travellers arriving in Australia from midnight 28 March 2020, will be required to undertake their mandatory 14-day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel).

Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks.

ADF personnel will bolster local police efforts in visiting the homes and residences of Australians who are in mandatory isolation as directed by state and territory governments and will report to the local police whether the identified individual was at the residence.

3) If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home:

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home

Social Distancing 

Social distancing is one way to help slow the spread of viruses such as COVID-19. The more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

It includes avoiding touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Stay at home

National Cabinet’s strong guidance to all Australians is to stay home unless for:

• shopping for what you need - food and necessary supplies;
• medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
• exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements;
• work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

Can I visit family and friends in aged care facilities?

As a general rule for all Australia, do not visit aged care facilities if you have:

  • Returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Have a fever or symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath).
  • You must have had your influenza vaccination in order to visit any aged care facility.

Please note states and territories have specific regulations within their jurisdictions, that cannot contradict the National Cabinet's recommendations.

Should I wear a surgical mask?

The recent rise in community transmission of COVID-19 in Australia means some states and territories now recommend or require the use of masks.

Face masks are now either required or recommended in Victoria (depending on where you live) because of the higher rates of community transmission of coronavirus there.

People in New South Wales have been asked to consider wearing a face mask if they live or work in a hot spot area and where physical distancing is not possible.

While a mask can be used as an extra precaution, you must continue to:

  • stay at home if unwell
  • maintain physical distance (more than 1.5m) from other people, when out
  • avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor spaces
  • practise hand and respiratory hygiene

If circumstances change in your state or territory then the advice on masks may have to change. It’s important to stay up to date with the advice in your local area. Your state or territory government will provide this. 

Travelling from, to or within Australia

Australians must avoid all non-essential domestic travel. States and territories can apply their own restrictions, including closing their state borders.  

Mandatory data collection

From 1st October 2020, there will be mandatory data collection on domestic flights to assist states and territories when it comes to contact tracing: name, email address, a mobile contact number, and a state of residence.

Boarding schools

Kids in boarding schools across the country are allowed to go home in the September - October 2020 school holidays, particularly those coming out of boarding schools and going back to remote areas.

Public Transport National principles 

Public transport services are the responsibility of the states and territories, and the National Cabinet endorses a series of principles to help manage the health and safety of workers and passengers on public transport networks, including: not travelling when feeling unwell, maintaining physical distance from drivers and other passengers, and avoiding handling cash. Public transport users are not required to wear masks but may do so on a voluntary basis. More information about the Principles for COVID-19 Public Transport Operations here:  

International Travels

There are caps on international passenger arrivals until at least 24 October 2020:

  • Melbourne – no international passenger arrivals;
  • Sydney – limit of 350 passenger arrivals per day;
  • Perth – limit of 525 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Brisbane – limit of 500 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Adelaide – limit of 500 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Canberra, Darwin – passenger limits on each flight to be discussed with jurisdictions on a case-by-case basis;
  • Hobart – no international flights.

Latest update

The national cap on the number of international travellers coming to Australia has been relaxed. The total number of arrivals has increased by 2,000, from 4,000 to 6,000 per week. 

• New South Wales will take an additional 500 per week by 27 September 2020.

• Queensland and Western Australia will take an additional 200 per week from the 27th of September

• Queensland (4 October) and Western Australia (11 October) will take 300 more (reaching the 500 weekly increase)

All international travellers arriving in Australia regardless of nationality or point of departure must complete self-isolation for 14 days in designated facilities before they can go home.  

They will be tested for coronavirus as they enter quarantine and before they're allowed to leave.

You may also have to contribute to the cost of quarantine. These requirements are managed and enforced by state and territory governments:

Australian citizens and permanent residents cannot travel overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

However, if you want to leave Australia, you may be able to apply online for an exemption to travel if you fall under one of the following categories: 

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid  
  • your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries) 
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia 
  • you are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business 
  • compassionate or humanitarian grounds  
  • your travel is in the national interest. 

Transit hubs 

Travel regulations are changing at short notice. If you’ve decided to return to Australia: 

  • check your route carefully and stay in touch with your airline or travel agent 
  • follow official announcements from your transit airports and governing authorities 
  • contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the countries you’re transiting through if you have any queries about their entry or exit requirements for further information and updates.

How are the authorities in Australia managing the outbreak?

The Prime Minister has activated the Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

A $2 billion investment from October 2020 to March 2021 to extend telehealth services for six months, to reach more Australians through health services, particularly in mental health.

Hardship provisions for energy, water and rates

Authorities are offering flexible payment options to all households and small businesses in financial stress by:

  • Not disconnecting restricting supply/services to those in financial stress;
  • Deferring debt recovery proceedings and credit default listing;
  • Waiving late fees and interest charges on debt; and
  • Minimising planned outages for critical works.
  • Those who can continue to pay their bills need to keep doing so - this is critical to ensuring the ongoing viability of essential services providers.
Flexibility for some visa holders

Working holiday visa holders: Exemption from six-month work limitation with one employer, if they work in a critical industry: health, aged care, disability care, childcare, agriculture and food, and will be eligible for a further visa if the current visa is expiring in the next six months.

Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme participants: will be able to extend their visas for up to one year.

Temporary Skilled visa holders: if they have lost their job, they have 60 days to find another sponsor or leave Australia (even if they have savings or family support)

If they have been stood down but not laid off, or have had their hours reduced, it will not be considered a breach of their visa condition. They can access up to $10,000 in their superannuation funds in this financial year.

International students

They can stay if they still have a job. If they don’t have a job, family support or savings, they might need to consider other arrangements. 

International students working in the aged care sector and nurses are allowed to work more than 20 hours a week. 

They can also access their superannuation if they’ve been in Australia for at least 12 months. 

In Victoria, international students will receive a relief payment of up to $1,100 as part of a Victorian Government emergency support package that will help tens of thousands of people across our state. 

Tourists: should return to their home country, particularly those without family support. 

Mental health support

  • The Government has added 10 Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To access, people need a Mental Health Treatment Plan ( and a GP review to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible health worker.
  • The Government’s digital mental health portal, Head to Health (, is a single source of authoritative information and guidance on how to maintain good mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and in self-isolation, how to support children and loved ones, and how to access further mental health services and care.


Government information