Inner banner_COVID



With so much information available about COVID-19, it can be confusing and difficult to understand. We've compiled our most frequently asked questions for people living with or caring for someone with a lung condition, and for the general community. This information is based on government and expert health advice.

About COVID-19

  • How does the COVID-19 virus spread?

    The COVID-19 virus spreads via small liquid particles from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, speak or breathe. Evidence suggests it spreads between people who are in close contact, which is why social distancing is important. The virus can also be spread in crowded indoor spaces and poorly ventilated spaces and via surfaces that have been touched and contaminated with liquid particles from an infected person. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose you can contract the virus, that’s why cleaning regularly touched surfaces and maintaining good hand hygiene is really important.

  • What can I do to protect myself and others?

    There are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. These include:

    • Getting vaccinated
    • Practicing social distancing
    • Wearing a mask
    • Practicing good hand hygiene
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue and sanitise or wash your hands after
    • Avoid frequently touched surfaces when in public.
  • What is a ‘vulnerable person’?

    There are a range of factors that can make you more ‘vulnerable’ to serious illness if you contract COVID-19. This includes age (particularly those over 70 years), those with a pre-existing health condition, people who are immunocompromised, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and pregnant women. If you are at increased risk of serious illness, speak to your healthcare team about developing an action plan to keep yourself safe and so you know what to do if you do contract the virus.

  • Should I use antivirals?

    Antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is available on the PBS for people at higher risk of severe illness. These treatments can be prescribed by a GP and should be commenced within 5 days of symptoms starting for treatment to be effective.

    If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for antiviral treatment if you are:

    • 70 years of age or older
    • 50-69 years of age and two additional risk factors
    • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, 30 years or older and with one additional risk factor
    • An adult who is moderately to severely immunocompromised
    • An adult who has experienced a past COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation

    Additional risk factors include living in residential aged care, pre-existing health conditions such as chronic respiratory conditions, or living remotely with reduced access to higher level healthcare. For a full list of risk factors, visit the Department of Health website. You can also check your eligibility for antivirals hereIf you are at risk of becoming very unwell with COVID-19, talk to your doctor about your suitability for antiviral treatment. Together, you can develop a plan to ensure you can access antiviral treatment quickly if you need it. 

  • What should I do if I test positive to COVID-19?

    While isolation is no longer a legal requirement for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, we strongly suggest that people isolate when they are sick for all viruses, including COVID-19. Staying at home protects the people around you and the broader community from becoming infected. If you need essential supplies and have no alternative option to be able to access them, use precautionary measures such as wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance from others and avoid touching anything unnecessarily.

    If your symptoms are mild, you can look after yourself at home with rest, hydration and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. If you develop severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in your chest, cold and clammy skin, fainting or collapsing, or coughing up blood, you should seek urgent medical attention. You can monitor your symptoms using the Healthdirect symptom checker to know if you should seek medical help if they worsen.

  • What is long COVID?

    While most people will recover completely within a few weeks after contracting COVID-19, some people will continue to experience symptoms. This is called ‘long COVID’ which can last for weeks and months. Symptoms of long COVID can include tiredness, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough, fever, headaches and chest pain. Many long-term effects from COVID-19 are still unknown, that’s why it’s important to do everything you can to protect yourself. If you’ve had COVID-19 and are experiencing persistent symptoms weeks or months after the initial infection, speak to your GP. Read more about recovering from COVID-19 and managing ongoing symptoms.


  • Why should I be vaccinated against COVID-19?

    COVID-19 vaccines offer significant protection against severe COVID-19 infection. Vaccinations are especially important for people who are at higher risk of becoming unwell from COVID-19 infection, such as those living with a lung condition.

    It’s important to talk to your healthcare team about getting vaccinated, so they can provide advice based on your personal circumstances and medical history. Read more about the latest COVID-19 vaccination program advice here. To find a clinic and book your vaccination, you can use the Healthdirect webpage or speak directly with your healthcare provider.

  • How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

    Like many vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine trains your immune system to recognise a virus as dangerous and fight it – in this case the one that causes COVID-19. The vaccine works in the same way that other vaccines you may already receive do, such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia. There are several COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Australia. Some contain either inactive or weakened versions of the virus that causes the infection, while others teach our bodies how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in our bodies. However, they are all designed to allow your body to develop a supply of defensive white blood cells that will remember how to fight the virus. This process can take a few weeks, so it is still possible to become unwell if you are infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after receiving the vaccine.

  • When should I get a booster dose?

    COVID-19 vaccines offer significant protection against severe COVID-19 infection. It can be difficult trying to keep up with the latest advice on when to get a vaccine and who is eligible. To assist, the latest recommendations on booster doses are summarised below (as per Department of Health and Aged Care, 2024):

    Recommendations by Age Group

    75 years and older

    • Recommended every 6 months.

    65-74 years

    • Recommended every 12 months. Can consider every 6 months.

    18-64 years

    • With severe immunocompromise: Recommended every 12 months. Can consider every 6 months.
    • Without severe immunocompromise: Consider every 12 months.

    5-17 years

    • With severe immunocompromise: Consider every 12 months.
    • Without severe immunocompromise: Not recommended.

    Under 5 years

    • Not recommended.

    Other Key Information

    • COVID-19 vaccines remain funded for all eligible individuals, including those without a Medicare card.
    • COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered (given on the same day) with any other vaccine for people aged 5 years and over.

    Individuals are encouraged to discuss their COVID-19 vaccinations with their health practitioner. For more information, visit the Department of Health website here.


  • When should I get a test?

    COVID-19 testing rules have changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic, but testing for COVID-19 is still important to protect yourself and others. You should get tested for COVID-19 if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been advised by a health professional to get tested.

  • What type of test should I have?

    There are two types of tests that can detect COVID-19. A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

    As of 1 January 2023, to obtain a Medicare-funded PCR test you will require a referral from a health practitioner. This means that only people who are at risk of severe COVID-19 who would benefit from antiviral treatments will be eligible to receive a PCR test.

    Alternatively, RATs can be used at home to self-test for the COVID-19 virus. These tests are can be purchased from participating pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets. In some instances, you may be able to access free RAT tests (e.g. if you have a concession card), please check with your treating team to find out more about this. Read more about testing for COVID-19, here.

    Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you, and what to do if you test positive for COVID-19. If you are at risk of becoming very unwell with COVID-19, having a plan for what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 can help you to access to any support or treatments you may need more quickly. If you or your loved one is living with a lung condition, a plan may be developed with your treating healthcare team or GP and could include:

    • Instruction (action plan) on the actions to take if your usual symptoms change or worsen
    • Up-to-date prescriptions for both regular medications and emergency medications (if they are part of your plan)
    • When to seek further medical care or call an ambulance.
  • How can I tell if my RAT is accurate?

    The Therapeutic Goods Association is reviewing all RATs included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. Check whether your RAT has been independently tested and found to be effective, here.

Managing my lung condition

  • How can I help my family/friends understand what I need to feel safe during this time?

    Viruses such as COVID-19, influenza and RSV can trigger exacerbations in existing conditions. You may choose to limit outings and prefer not to have visitors in your home when you know there are more cases of these viruses in the community. Talk to your loved ones about what they can do to make you feel as safe and comfortable as possible. If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, wear a mask, maintain physical distance from you and avoid touching anything unnecessarily.

    We’ve developed a poster that you can hang on your front door as a reminder to anyone who might be entering your home. Download now. 

  • Should I delay my regular appointments during this time?

    It’s important that you maintain your usual healthcare to manage your lung condition during this time. If you’re unable to attend a face-to-face appointment you should discuss with your GP or specialist having your appointments via telephone or video call.

    If you need to attend a health facility for a scan or to access treatment, you should discuss the best option with your treating healthcare team.

    Read more about managing your condition during this time, here.

  • Can I access home delivery services for my medication and treatment?

    In some parts of Australia people can access home delivery services for medication and treatment. Please check with your pharmacist if they issue e-scripts and have a home delivery service.

In the household

  • How can I keep my household safe?

    There are things you can do to reduce the risk of bringing the COVID-19 virus into your home. These include washing your hands thoroughly when arriving, reducing visitors to your home and ensuring you clean any items before bringing them into your home. It’s also important to regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops. For more information about reducing the spread in your home, visit our ‘Preventing the spread’ information, here.

  • What should I do if someone in my household tests positive?

    If someone in your household tests positive to COVID-19, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to other household members. HealthDirect has great information and resources on preparing your home, how to isolate, support services and caring for others.

  • What should I do if I live with or care for someone who is at high-risk of a severe case of COVID-19?

    Living with or caring for someone who is at increased risk can heighten feelings of  fear and anxiety. Taking extra care to maintain COVID-safe practices, such as good hygiene, can help reduce the risk of infection within the home. Being prepared for someone in your household to test positive is going to help you to feel more comfortable and confident if it happens. Develop an action plan together that includes how the person who is positive will isolate within the home, who in your support network (such a family or neighbours) can check in and drop off supplies, what supplies you can ensure you have on-hand and some activities to keep you occupied if you need to isolate.

    If possible, you should opt to use different bathrooms, sleep in different bedrooms and avoid using common areas at the same time. Ensuring you thoroughly clean regularly used surfaces and items will help to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.