Preventing the spread

There are a number of measures you can put in place in your everyday life to help protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19. These practices have become familiar in recent years, but it's easy to let good habits slide.

Preventing the spread

Practising good hygiene is the best defence against most viruses.

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel. It is important to note that both soap and alcohol break virus particles apart, but in different ways.
  • Wear a face mask when leaving your home.
  • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible.
  • Avoid touching your face, as this can transfer the virus from your hands to your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid touching other people, such as shaking hands or hugging. You can greet each other with a wave instead.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a flexed elbow when you cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and wash your hands thoroughly or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. If you are unable to avoid people who do have flu-like symptoms, such as members of your household, then encouraging them to wear a mask at home may also help to protect you.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

Viral particles can last for some time on surfaces, so wiping down surfaces frequently and washing your hands afterwards is important.

COVID-19 Door Poster
Those living with lung disease or lung cancer are at higher risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19. This poster, to be placed at the entry of a residence or workplace identifies that someone within the premises is living with a lung condition and requests that those entering undertake extra precautions.

Wearing a mask

Wearing a mask is an important defense against catching and spreading the virus. When worn, face masks should be fitted to your face without causing discomfort. Face masks are generally well tolerated by people, even those living with a lung condition. If you have questions or concerns about wearing a face mask due to your lung condition, please consult with your treating healthcare team about the type of mask best suited to you.
Face masks are ineffective if they are worn incorrectly. Common mistakes when wearing face masks include not covering the nose and mouth adequately and having an incorrect fit. It’s a good idea to practice using a mask in the safety of your home to become comfortable with safely donning and removing the mask and to ensure your breathing isn’t impacted by the face mask.

Follow these steps when donning and removing a face mask:

  • Before touching your face mask, wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching the face mask while using it.
  • If your face mask becomes moist, replace it with a clean one.
  • Remove the face mask by the ear loops or ties and avoid touching areas of the mask that touch your face.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after removing your face mask.

Watch the video for further instruction on how to properly fit a mask and how to don and remove a mask hygienically.

Replace your mask at the right time

If you live with a chronic cough or have developed a cough due to being unwell, your coughing will likely make the inside of your mask moist. Replace your mask as soon as it becomes moist as the mask is now less effective.

Surgical masks are designed as single-use, disposable products. Even if the mask looks clean, do not wear a surgical mask more than once. Dispose of the mask in the bin and wash your hands thoroughly.

Fabric face masks can be worn more than once but need to be washed daily. Wash fabric face masks in hot, soapy water as soon as possible. Store your face mask in a sealable plastic bag when not wearing.

Follow government advice

It is important to follow local advice regarding wearing of face masks. You can find this information on your state health department website.

Types of face masks and covers

Type Features and Recommendations
P2 or N95 masks

It is not recommended that members of the public use P2 or N95 masks to reduce spread of viruses.

The one-way valve is less effective at filtering the air you breath out meaning viruses may be transmitted to others in proximity.

Rigid design may make this mask more difficult to remove hygienically. If not removed carefully, you may spread contaminants on the surface of the mask to your face or hands.

Store-bought disposable facemasks

Endorsed by the World Health Organisation. Also know as surgical masks.

Provides 3 layers of synthetic non-woven materials which provide protection to the person donning the facemask and others in proximity.

Easier to place and remove from the face hygienically.

Fabric facemask

If worn, fabric facemasks should have an inner layer of absorbent material (eg. cotton), a middle layer of non-woven material (eg. polypropylene) and an outer layer of non-absorbent material (eg. polyester).

Not all fabric facemasks have 3 layers of fabric or use appropriate materials to filter air in and out of the mask.

Fabric facemasks should be washed daily and stored in a sealable plastic bag when not worn.

Face covers

Face covers refer to wardrobe items (e.g. bandanas, scarfs) that may be fashioned into a face cover. However, these types of items are not considered as effective personal protective equipment.

Consult your treating healthcare team before using a face cover to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Key advice

  • Top tips if you are unable to wear a mask   
    • Stay home 

    If you are living in an area which is experiencing community transmission of COVID-19 the best precaution is to stay at home. To assist with this, utilise food and pharmaceutical delivery services. Stay in contact with your treating healthcare team during this time by organising telehealth appointments.

    • Plan ahead  

    If you need to leave your home for an essential activity, plan your travel and activity ahead of time to reduce your time out of the home. For example, if you are going to the supermarket, write a grocery list before you leave home.

    • Call ahead

    If you must attend an essential activity, such as a face-to-face doctor’s appointment, call ahead to ensure proper safety precautions are being taken. Speak with reception about your condition and discuss what precautions you should take if you are not wearing a mask.

    • Enlist the help of family and friends

    Now is the time to call on your close community to assist you with essential activities such as grocery shopping. Have a plan in place to protect yourself when family and friend’s deliver items. Download our COVID-19 door poster to notify visitors of your condition and the extra precaution they should take around you, available here.

    • Reach out to support services

    Investigate additional community-based support services such as volunteer programs, which can assist you with shopping and other daily tasks. If you need further information or support about your condition, and information on how to stay safe during COVID-19, call us on 1800 654 301 (option 3).

  • Reducing the spread in your home

    If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, 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.

    Cleaning advice

    Health experts have recommended a series of practical steps for maintaining good hygiene at home to reduce the chance of the virus entering your home. These include:

    • Take off your shoes before you enter your home
    • Create a “station” to leave frequently touched items on – such as sunglasses, purses, wallets, keys and mobile phones
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds – do this often and thoroughly, especially after you have been outside your house
    • Wipe down items brought into your home with detergent or soapy water (e.g. take away containers)
    • Wash fresh produce with warm water
    • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces twice a day with detergent, this includes:
      • Tables
      • Doorknobs
      • Light switches
      • Countertops
      • Desks
      • Telephones and mobiles
      • Keyboards
      • Toilets
      • Faucets
      • Sinks
      • Pay special attention to the bathroom.

    There is a lot of inaccurate information available about which products you should be using to clean your home. Cleaning  and disinfecting is advised to help limit the spread of the virus and most everyday cleaning products will be suitable for thorough cleaning, but to kill the virus, a disinfectant is needed.

    Firstly, clean surfaces using a detergent and water and unsure you scrub diligently to remove dirt, grime and dust. Then, apply disinfectant to kill the virus, again scrubbing diligently. For the disinfectant to be as effective as possible, make sure it has contact with the surface for at least 5-10 minutes. Use a bleach-based solution or an alcohol-based solution with at least 70% alcohol. The Australian Department of Health says you should use a disinfectant that claims “antiviral activity” – meaning it can kill a virus, for example, chlorine-based disinfectants.

    It is important to note that natural cleaning products (e.g. vinegar) are not as effective as commercial cleaners and disinfectants. Most natural or “eco-cleaners” are unlikely to kill the virus. Be careful not to mix different cleaning products, as this can create dangerous solutions that are likely to be ineffective. Ensure you thoroughly wash any cloths you used to clean, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.

    Download Cleaning Resource

  • Social distancing

    One way to slow the spread of viruses is social distancing. Social distancing (or physical distancing) refers to creating physical space between yourself and others. It’s currently advised that people maintain 1.5 metres distance between each other. The more space between you and others, the harder it is for viruses to spread.  As states and territories ease restrictions around Australia, it is still important that everyone continues to practice social distancing.

    How to maintain social distancing

    • Keeping 1.5 metres away from others
    • Avoiding physical greetings such as handshaking, hugs and kisses
    • Using tap and go payments instead of cash where possible
    • Practising extra care if you are using public transport
    • Avoiding crowds – if you see a crowded space do not enter
    • Avoiding large public gatherings
    • Practising good hand hygiene
    • Staying at home if you have any cold or flu symptoms. Seek medical advice and get tested for COVID-19.
  • Socialising

    Even though restrictions are easing, you may wish to exercise caution and continue to stay at home as much as possible, especially with the winter months upon us.  There are many ways you can continue to stay in touch with family and friends:

    • Think about using other methods to socialise, such as telephone, email and social media to stay in touch with family, friends and neighbours. 
    • Plan to contact family and friends on different days so your social interactions can be spaced out across the week. 
    • Be creative: plan to watch television shows at the same time as friends and have a telephone conversation about it afterwards. 
    • If you are feeling socially isolated, don’t wait for someone to contact you – call a friend or a family member and discuss how you are feeling.  

    If you need to talk to someone urgently, Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis telephone counselling on 13 11 14. 

    We understand this is a difficult time for everyone which is only made harder by not being able to spend time with those closest to you. We have created a suite of information and resources to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing during this time.  

  • Visitors to your home

    Before accepting visitors to your home, you should check the restrictions on the number of people you are allowed in your house in the state or territory where you live.  Each has its own specific COVID-19 website.  If you are allowed to have visitors at home, it’s important to maintain 1.5 metres between people from different households. Keeping visitors to a minimum will help to reduce the spread of the virus throughout the community. For more information, including details of the state and territory websites for COVID-19, see the Australian Government Department of Health website.

  • Work

    The current advice from the government is employees should work from home if the arrangement works for the employee and employer. To find out more about work from home arrangements and recommendation, visit the Australian Governments Department of Health website. 

    If you cannot work from home and you are sick, you must not attend your workplace. You must stay at home and away from others.

    If you are living with a lung condition and are unable to work from home, speak with your employer about the measures that are being put in place to protect employees. Visit  Safe Work Australia website for advice for workers, along with information for employers and preparing workplaces.

  • When to seek medical attention

    If you’re experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, we strongly encourage you to self-isolate and seek medical attention as early as possible.

    COVID-19 symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath

    It’s important to seek medical attention as early as possible if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. You should telephone your treating doctor or hospital before arrival and inform them of your pre-existing condition, as well as your travel history and if you may have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus. You must remain isolated either in your home or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities.


    The criteria for having a test for COVID-19 are updated regularly as new evidence becomes available. Testing diagnoses people with COVID-19 and also helps health authorities monitor and track the spread of COVID-19. People with mild symptoms can still spread the virus. To help stop the resurgence and spread of COVID-19, anyone with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection should get tested as soon as possible.

    Where to get tested:

    Depending on the type of test you receive, results may take a day or two to become available. While you wait for the results, follow Government advice to protect yourself and others.

    Have a plan if you get sick

    Consult with your treating healthcare team for more information about monitoring your health during this time. If you develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 and clearly explain you have a pre-existing lung condition. If you become sick due to a flare-up of symptoms or COVID-19, seek help and support from friends, family, neighbours and community health workers. If you caregiver gets sick or is self-isolating, determine who can care for you or help with daily tasks – it might be a good idea to start considering other alternatives early. 

    How is COVID-19 treated?

    There is currently no treatment for COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Supportive care may be provided by your doctor or a hospital, such as fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration, medication to reduce fever and in more severe cases, supplemental oxygen.


  • Parents of school aged children

    Australian Government agencies are working with states and territories to implement measures to manage the risk of COVID-19. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment website helps students, parents, and education providers, as well as job seekers and employers find the information they need to make informed decisions about managing risk associated with COVID-19.

    Everyone can protect against infections by practising good hand and respiratory hygiene. Health promotion materials are available from Victoria Health to educate and promote healthy habits for staff, students and families:

Social distancing frequently asked questions

  • What’s the difference between self-isolation and social distancing?

    Social distancing and self-isolation are important measures to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and to slow the spread of the virus. Social distancing is about maintaining spatial distance between yourself and other people to help reduce the chance of transmitting the virus. The Government currently recommends 1.5 metres distance between people. Self-isolation means staying in your home at all times to reduce physical contact with anyone, unless absolutely necessary. Experts strongly advise anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or might have been exposed to self-isolate. Review the latest Government advice for self-isolation timeframes.

  • How should I define essential and non-essential activities?

    Think about the things that you really can’t go without – groceries, medicine and medical appointments. Some things might feel essential to you, even if they’re non-essential, such as seeing your grandkids. Remember, this is only a temporary situation. It’s important to consider all your interactions during this time and think about alternative ways you may be able to stay connected. Embrace technology and ask your family and friends to help you set up things like Facetime or other apps so you can feel connected. 

  • Should I use social distancing or self-isolation if I have a lung disease but am otherwise feeling well?  

    If you have a pre-existing lung condition, you’re at a heightened risk of serious illness if you contract a virus such as COVID-19. Social distancing and self-isolation are the most effective ways of preventing the spread. It’s important to remember that people who have COVID-19 don’t always display symptoms. 

    If you do have to go out for an essential reason: 

    • Practice social distancing vigilantly 
    • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often – if you can’t access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser 
    • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible, particularly things like shopping trollies and door handles 
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. 


  • Can I still go to work and grocery shop if I’m practising social distancing? 

    Home delivery of medication and groceries are available to support vulnerable Australians in staying home during this time. Visit the following links for the most up-to-date information on these services. 

    If these services are not yet available in your region, contact family and friends to see if they help by purchasing essential supplies on your behalf during this time. If you must go out, ensure you practice social distancing, avoid high-touch areas such as shopping trolleys and door handles, avoid touching your face, and was your hands thoroughly when you get home. 

  • Should I be going to work? 

     If you are living with a lung condition and are unable to work from home, speak with your employer about the measures that are being put in place to protect employees. Visit Safe Work Australia website for advice for workers, along with information for employers and preparing workplaces. 

  • How do I raise it with people if they’re not practicing social distancing around me?

    It’s important you put your health first and this might mean talking to your friends and family about what you need from them during this time. If people need to visit your home, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly on arriving, 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. 

  • When should I get tested?

    You should be getting tested if you meet the following criteria: 

    • You develop any symptoms of COVID-19, check your symptoms here. 
    • You have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
      *You may be identified through state government contract tracing and asked to get tested.  
    • You have lived in or travelled through an area where there is a higher risk of community transmission, as defined by the local public health unit. 
    • You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause. 
    • You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days (tested through hotel quarantine system).  
    • You are a health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact. 

    For more information on testing criteria, view here. 

  • Does my carer/family going out to purchase supplies on my behalf compromise my position? (ie could become infected within community)  

    If possible, ask a family member or friend who doesn’t live with you to purchase supplies on your behalf, and ask them to leave them outside your door to minimise your physical contact with that person. If a carer/family member who lives with you does have to go out to purchase supplies, ensure they are: 

    • Practicing social distancing vigilantly 
    • Washing hands with soap and water thoroughly and often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser 
    • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible 
    • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. 

    Only household members who are essential for caring for you should stay in the home. Consider: 

    • Staying in a different room from them, or be separated as much as possible 
    • Use a separate bathroom, if available 
    • Avoid shared or communal areas as much as possible. 

    Other people living in the home should consider staying elsewhere if possible. Surfaces in shared areas such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, toilets, faucets and sinks should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution – wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly afterwards. Clean and disinfect telephones and mobiles and keyboards – wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly afterwards.

  • When social distancing is the new norm and access to respiratory specialists is more problematic or restricted, how can I feel confident my lung disease is under control?
    • Try and stay as well as possible – eat well, exercise (i.e. a home-based exercise program), rest when you can, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, avoid going out where possible 
    • Schedule your consultations via the telephone or videoconference – all specialists are now offering this service 
    • Follow your current written action plan developed with your treating doctor to help you recognise when symptoms of your lung condition worsen and the steps to manage them. If your plan is out of date or you do not have one, call your GP or treating healthcare team and ask whether they can complete one with you over the telephone.