LAST UPDATED: November 2020
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line provides information and support for Older Australians, their relatives, carers, friends or supporters on 1800 171 866, Monday to Friday between 8:30am to 6pm AEDT (excluding public holidays)
Australia continues to experience outbreaks of COVID-19. The virus spread quickly across the world, and this is likely to continue. Australia has been relatively successful in minimising the rate of infection, but many people have already become very ill, and some have died. To keep Australians safe, we will need to continue working together to keep the spread of COVID-19 contained.
COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. Older Australians (people age 60+), especially those with pre-existing medical conditions, and people with compromised immune systems, are among those at risk of the more serious symptoms of Coronavirus.
Even if you are feeling well it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus. Good hygiene, and taking care when interacting with other people, are the best defences for you and your family against COVID-19. This includes:
- covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- disposing of tissues immediately they are used, into a dedicated waste bin and washing your hands
- washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet, and when you have been out to shops or other places
- using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, where available
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched
- where possible, stay 1.5 metres away from other people – an example of “social distancing”
- if you are sick, avoiding contact with others.
The spread of COVID-19 and Australia’s response is evolving. We will update this website as more information becomes available. The information on this page is based on advice from the Australian Government, and from other authoritative sources when there is no advice from the Australian Government.
For the latest advice, information and resources, go to the Australian Government website. Go to www.health.gov.au.
The Department of Health website is the best place to go for accurate information on:
- Preventing the disease;
- What to do if you think you might have COVID-19;
- Understanding more about the symptoms of the virus
COTA Australia has been working with the Government, and with the media, to make sure that people are getting clear and consistent information. This has been challenging, as there is a lot of misinformation, both on social media and mass media.
For accurate information on COVID-19, please rely on information from the Australian Government and your state or territory health department.
The Australian Government has developed the following fact sheets:
- COVID-19 and the Commonwealth Home Support Program: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-and-the-commonwealth-home-support-programme-information-for-clients-families-and-carers
- Fact sheet on restricted visits to residential aged care facilities: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-on-entry-into-and-visitors-to-aged-care-facilities
- Coronavirus: Accessing aged care services: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-accessing-aged-care-services
- Coronavirus: advice for retirement villages: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-retirement-villages
- Coronavirus: Its Ok to have home care: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-its-ok-to-have-home-care
- Information for permanent aged care residents – emergency leave: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-permanent-aged-care-residents-emergency-leave
- Seeing family and friends and living in the community: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-seeing-family-and-friends-and-living-in-the-community
- Identify the symptoms:
- Advice on public gatherings and visits:
The Australian Department of Health have produced a range of videos, podcasts and posters are available here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-campaign-resources
Find out more about restrictions in your state or territory by visiting:
- Australian Capital Territory: ACT Government Health
- New South Wales: NSW Government Health
- Northern Territory: Northern Territory Government
- Queensland: Queensland government health and wellbeing
- South Australia: Government of South Australia SA Health
- Tasmania: Tasmanian Government Department of Health
- Victoria: Victoria State Government Health and Human Services
- Western Australia: Government of Western Australia Department of Health
You may also find useful resources on the HealthDirect website. Go to: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus
There is also a National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
The phone number of your state or territory public health agency is available at www.health.gov.au/state-territory-contacts.
Most people displaying symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or fatigue may be suffering from a cold, flu, allergies or other respiratory illness – not COVID-19. However, if you develop symptoms you should seek medical attention. This may include visiting your local COVID-19 testing centre. If you plan to visit your GP, you must call ahead to make arrangements.
You may wish to check your symptoms using HealthDirect’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker. The symptom checker is available here: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details.
You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline for information and advice about COVID-19. The number is 1800 020 080. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
The Commonwealth Department of Health contains a website with specific COVID-19 advice for older people. This is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-older-people
COTA Australia has been working with the Government, and with the media, to make sure that people are getting clear and consistent information. This has been challenging, as there can be a lot of misinformation, both on social media and mass media.
Please rely on information that comes from an “official source” such the Australian Government or your State or Territory Government. You may also be interested in COVID-19 information from the Australian Government including information on mythbusting https://www.australia.gov.au/covid-19-mythbusting and any scams https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/current-covid-19-coronavirus-scams
If you are unwell with another illness, or are receiving routine healthcare (such as vaccinations, or routine tests), your medical centre likely has some strategies in place to prevent the spread of disease. Please call ahead to your medical centre to ask about any precautions, and you must let them know if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, if you have returned from overseas or if you have been in contact with a positive COVID-19 case. Measures to protect youmay include:
- Implementing distancing measures in doctors waiting rooms (such as spacing chairs 1.5m apart)
- Delivering care via videolink (see telehealth)
- Requiring visitors to use hand sanitiser upon arrival
Telehealth is the provision of health services via teleconference. Using telehealth means that you can have a consultation with your GP, psychologist, allied health practitioner and others via a video application (like Facetime or Skype). Using telehealth can be a great way to ensure social distancing, and minimise travel to/from your health appointment.
From 13 March 2020 to 31 March 2021, telehealth has been expanded so that everyone with a medicare card is eligible for telehealth services.
This is particularly useful for people who have simple requests, such as a repeat prescription for their medication, or for routine chronic disease management. It can also be used for discussing acute illness or injury, but your doctor may decide they need to see you in person depending on the type of treatment or test that is required.
More information on this is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-the-health-and-disability-sector/providing-health-care-remotely-during-covid-19
If you are interested in using telehealth for your next medical appointment, please contact the provider/GPs office directly to discuss this option.
There is no immunisation for COVID-19. However, people with COVID-19 are prone to secondary infections, including becoming infected with influenza and pneumococcal. In 2020, the influenza vaccination has been released early. This is to prevent infection of both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. It will also reduce pressure on the health system.
The influenza vaccine is available free for particular groups, including those age 65 and over, under the National Immunisation Program schedule. More information about this can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule
COTA Australia is encouraging everyone who is able to the influenza vaccine to do so.
Having an up-to-date flu vaccine is a requirement if you intend to visit a residential aged care facility.
In some states and territories, wearing a mask has become mandatory. Some states or territories are advising that certain groups wear masks. Where there is low community transmission of COVID-19, wearing a mask in the community when you are well is not generally recommended.
However, where there is significant community transmission (as determined by jurisdictional public health authorities), you may choose, or be required to, wear a mask. If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, for example on public transport, covering your face with a mask can provide some extra protection.
While a mask can be used as an extra precaution, you must continue to:
- stay at home if unwell
- maintain physical distance (more than 1.5 metres) from other people, when out
- avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor spaces
- practise hand and respiratory hygiene.
The main value of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If the person wearing the mask is unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will reduce the chance of them passing the virus on to others.
For people at increased risk of severe COVID-19 themselves because of older age or chronic illness, physical distancing is most important. If you cannot maintain physical distance, wearing a mask is an important protective measure.
More information on masks, including how to properly fit a mask, is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others-from-coronavirus-covid-19/masks
We understand that there are many people who have been stood down from work during this period, or struggling to meet living costs due to COVID-19. The Australian Government has introduced income support packages to help ease some of this pressure.
Everything you need to know about Jobseeker, Jobkeeper and stimulus package payments can be found on the Services Australia website. The website is here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/affected-coronavirus-covid-19
The Australian Government’s Moneysmart website has a dedicated section on COVID-19 and decision making. This can be found here: https://moneysmart.gov.au/covid-19
You may also wish to call the National debt hotline on 1800 007 007, More information on the hotline is available here: https://ndh.org.au/
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website has the latest information on consumer rights, travel and event cancellations in relation to COVID-19. It can be found here: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
States and Territories have their own restrictions. Some have closed their borders, while others may have restrictions for visiting particular areas (including regional or remote areas).
If you have had to cancel an upcoming trip, and would like information on travel refunds or cancellations, go to: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
If you have overseas travel planned, please follow the advice on SmartTraveller. The website will contain the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions and advice. This can be found here: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/crisis/covid-19-and-travel
Unfortunately, there have been multiple reports of scams related to COVID-19. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, please rely on Australian Government material.
If you receive communication that you think may be a scam, delete the messages. Do not open any attachments, and do not click on any links. If you think someone may have accessed your financial information, contact your bank immediately.
For the most up-to-date information on scams in Australia, please go to https://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/ or call 1300 292 371.
Its ok to take your dog for a walk. This is a great way to get outside, get some exercise, and look after your pets’ wellbeing. If you are self-isolating, consider talking to a friend or family about making sure your pets’ needs are still being met.
There is no evidence of COVID-19 virus transmission of the virus from domestic animals. It is safe to pat and interact with your pet. However, if you are touching a leash, or kennel, that other humans may have touched, wash your hands.
For more information on domestic animals, including importing restrictions, please see the following: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/coronavirus/animals
Having a daily routine is helpful for people with dementia. The COVID-19 outbreak has meant that many people’s daily routine has had to change. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, many scheduled activities have been cancelled or disrupted. Dementia Australia have developed a number of fact sheets on dementia and COVID-19, available below:
- COVID-19 Tips for people living with dementia: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_04_PLWD-v2.pdf
COVID 19 Tips for carers, families and friends of people living with dementia: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_01_carers_family_friends_PLWD_FA-v2.pdfYou may also wish to call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 if you have more questions about dementia and COVID-19.
Many people are feeling anxious, distressed and concerned around the COVID-19 outbreak. It is important to ask for help if you need it.
Take proactive steps to help you to cope during the difficult times. These steps may include:
- Stay connected with friends and family (consider a phone call or video call). Check in regularly with loved ones, and let people know if you are feeling lonely.
- Get trusted information on Coronavirus. Misinformation can make us feel anxious, or cause unnecessary stress and worry.
- Limit how much time you spend watching or reading the news. It’s no secret that watching the news can make us feel stressed and depressed right now. It’s important to keep informed as the virus progresses, but if it’s becoming overwhelming, it might be time to turn the news off for a few hours.
- Look after your physical health too, by getting fresh air and exercise, and watching what you eat.
- Put a structure in your day. Having a regular routine can help you feel more in control of your day, help you get essential tasks done, and schedule time for keeping in contact with friends or family.
- Seek professional help when you need it. This may mean seeking information online, or calling a helpline to talk about your concerns.
Its ok if you are struggling. These are difficult times. Help is out there if you need it (see Helplines below). Check in with your friends and family. Look after yourself.
The Australian Government has partnered with Beyond Blue to provide the COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service you can call them on 1800 512 348.
Other helplines are also available:
- Lifeline: 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14
- BeyondBlue offers short term counselling and referrals by phone. Call 1300 224 636.
- Carers Australia: Short-term counselling psychological support services for carers and their families. Call 1800 242 636
- 1800Respect: Confidential information, counselling and support service open 24 hours to support people impacted by domestic or family violence and abuse. Call 1800 737 732
- Mensline: A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way. Call 1300 789 978
- National Debt Helpline: free and confidential advice from professional financial counsellors. The hotline is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday. 1800 007 007
Online mental health assistance related to COVID-19 can be found here: https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au/
Other online options include:
- Head to Health – Provided by the Australian Department of Health, Head to Health brings together apps, online programs, online forums, and phone services, as well as a range of digital information resources.: https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19
- Lifeline – Lifeline have developed a website on Mental Health and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak. It is available here: https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
- Embrace Multicultural Mental Health – A national platform for multicultural communities and Australian mental health services to access resources, services and information in a culturally accessible format In the meantime, there are many other supports available. https://embracementalhealth.org.au/
It is important to take reasonable steps to protect residents, visitors and staff. There are special measures in place to stop the spread of the virus through residential aged care facilities. This has included changing arrangements for visitors.
A nationally consistent approach has been agreed for visitors to aged care facilities. This is designed to both protect vulnerable aged care residents from COVID-19, and ensure visits can still take place.
Information is available here:
Visiting a friend or family member facing the end of life is difficult but important. We understand that it is an emotional time. We know that you will want to visit your loved one and may wish to bring other friends and family with you. The Prime Minister has given palliative care as a specific example of an exception to the general rules – with full safety and hygiene precautions in place of course.
There can be other exceptions. Each residential aged care provider will be making their own arrangements for visitors. It’s up to the facility to find the right balance of care and compassion, and protecting other residents. Facilities are required to continue to uphold all the Aged Care Standards. Please contact the facility before you plan to visit, so that arrangements can be made.
If you are unhappy with the response from your facility you may contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or make a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.
COTA Australia has been actively working to make sure the needs of older people are being prioritised. We have been working closely with:
- Australian Government (including the Department of Health);
- Politicians and decision makers;
- Media organisations;
- community organisations;
- health organisations;
- aged care providers;
- many others
The contact details for State and Territory COTA’s can be found here: https://www.cota.org.au/get-involved/visit-stateor-territory-cota/