How to self-isolate the right way and how it’s enforced
Australia has cracked down on self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic, with tough penalties for those who defy quarantine orders.
People who have recently arrived back in Australia will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days. It's also required if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case, or have COVID-19.
It comes as millions of Australians have been looking for information about the topic, with Google trends revealing search interest for social isolation is currently the highest on record in Australia.
The top trending question is: "How is self isolation enforced?"
One of the top trending questions on Google is: "What is self isolation coronavirus Australia?"
As the virus continues to spread, those found breaching self-isolation requirements face fines worth tens of thousands of dollars, and even jail time.
If you're affected, here's everything you need to know about how to self-isolate properly.
DO I NEED TO SELF-ISOLATE?
If you arrived in Australia anytime from midnight on March 15, have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, or havecontracted the virus, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Self-isolation is also required if you have returned from a high-risk country such as China, Italy, South Korea or Iran in the past two weeks.
When travelling to your home or hotel from the airport, or after returning a positive test, the federal Department of Health recommends using your personal vehicle if possible in order to minimise exposure to others.
If you need to use public transport - including taxis and ride-sharing services - wear a surgical mask if available.
Try your best to stay at least 1.5 metres away from others, including fellow commuters, drivers and other public transport staff.
You should also practice good hand hygiene and wash them regularly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
The Department of Health also recommends covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and to dispose of tissues.
According to Health Direct: "Even if you have a negative result, you should complete the whole 14 days of self-isolation."
HOW DO I SELF-ISOLATE EFFECTIVELY?
You should stay indoors unless seeking medical care, in which case you should wear a surgical mask when you leave the house.
Cleaning is also important to minimise the spread of germs. The Department of Health recommends using detergent or disinfectant to clean surfaces that are frequently touched such as door handles, and bathroom and kitchen areas.
Only people who usually live with you should be in the home, according to the Department of Health. You should not invite visitors over, and if you are in a hotel, avoid contact with other guests or staff.
If you require food, groceries or medication, ask friends or family who are not in self-isolation to collect them for you.
Woolworths and Coles have suspended Click & Collect services. Coles has halted home delivery, although Woolworths is still continuing this service.
A number of food delivery services including Deliveroo, Menulog, UberEats and DoorDash are now offering contact-free delivery to minimise exposure.
You should request for any orders to be left at your doorstep.
Others living with you are not required to self-isolate unless they have also recently returned to Australia from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
If you develop symptoms and are suspected to have the coronavirus, anyone living with you will be regarded as close contacts and also required to isolate.
Sydney University global health security expert Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott said those who have tested positive or are awaiting test results should remain at home, preferably in the bedroom and avoid interacting beyond those four walls.
He added they should not be putting the kids to bed and if they go into a communal space they should wear face masks, avoid contact with others, and wash hands regularly.
They do not need to wear their face masks while they are in their bedroom by themselves - but their partner should sleep in a different room during the quarantine period.
"If someone walks into the bedroom by accident or opens the door to deliver a tray of food, they are not at risk of being exposed to the virus," he said.
However, when taking plates and utensils away, the person who puts it in the dishwasher or washes it up afterwards needs to ensure they immediately wash their hands with soap and water afterwards and clean the surfaces (like the tray) with disinfectant.
CAN I GO OUTSIDE AT ALL?
Those living in a private house are safe to spend time in their garden or courtyard, or on their balcony if they live in an apartment or townhouse.
You can also go into the garden if you are staying in a hotel or live in an apartment, but you should move quickly through common areas and wear a surgical masks to minimise risk to others, according to the Department of Health.
"Yes, you can go out to the garden, but if you must cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow and wash your hands," Associate Professor Kamradt-Scott said.
The virus is not airborne - so simply breathing while in the garden is unlikely to, for example, spread it to your neighbour's garden, he said.
He added people should also not walk their dog.
WHAT PENALTIES APPLY IF I BREAK MY SELF-ISOLATION?
Queensland Health said people who have travelled from high-risk areas or who have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case will issued notices requesting that they voluntarily quarantine themselves.
It said it would initially work closely with anyone suspected of breaking their obligations, such as ensuring they understood the importance of self-isolation amid the pandemic.
However, further breaches could include fines of up to $13,345.
NSW Health said the state's Chief Health Officer could issue an order to forcibly require self-isolation compliance if necessary. Any enforcement required would be in consultation with NSW Police.
People in the state who break the order face fines of up to $11,000, and even jail time.
Following Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews state of emergency declaration on Monday, people in the state can be fined up to $19,826 for defying a public health order under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act.
And in South Australia, those who don't comply with an order under the Public Health Act can be forced to pay up to $25,000.
HOW ARE THESE PENALTIES ENFORCED?
News Corp contacted Queensland Health, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, NSW Health and SA Health to ask how self-isolation would be enforced.
At the time of publication, only two state departments had responded.
NSW Health pointed to a media release which did not specifically outline how those in self-isolation would be monitored.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said everyone required to self-isolate so far had been cooperative, it had the power to "enforce isolation at a specified location, which where possible, will be in that person's home or hotel room".
Queensland Police is assisting Queensland Health in assuring affected people understand the obligations they have agreed to under self-isolation.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian conceded on Sunday that it would be difficult to monitor "every situation". She added the government would be relying on the public to notify them of any breaches.
"If you're in a workplace and you know someone is coming to work who has recently been overseas, let us know," Ms Berejiklian said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "If your mate has been to Bali and they come back and they turn up at work and they are sitting next to you, they will be committing an offence."
HOW DO I REDUCE BOREDOM?
The Department of Health recommends keeping in touch with family and friends via social media, telephone or email.
Exercise it also important, with the Department recommending dancing, floor exercises, yoga, and using home exercise equipment or DVDs.
Professor Mike Kyrios of Flinders University's Órama Institute of Mental Health, Wellbeing and Neuroscience said: "Remain in touch with people through social media or a simple phone call. Share your experiences to facilitate support, or use the best of Australian humour to lighten the situation. Dinners or dessert and coffee over Skype are always a hoot!"
Prof Kyrios said it was important to separate each other when you're stuck in the home for long periods.
"It can be particularly useful to timetable periods of Time Out to minimise the ongoing stress of being in a limited space with others for long periods," Prof Kyrios said.
He said it was important to relax through mindfulness and yoga strategies, and to also remain active.
"Breathing and muscular relation exercises, mindfulness training, dancing, yoga and playing musical instruments are a few available strategies that are effective," he said.
"Find opportunities in the home to undertake some exercise. Alternatively, entertain yourself by catching up on some reading, streaming services, digital or board games, hobbies, or playing music."
WHAT IF I GET SICK?
You should arrange to see a doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms within 14 days of returning to Australia, or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, according to the Department of Health.
"You should telephone the health clinic or hospital before you arrive and tell them your travel
history or that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus," the Department says.
"You must remain isolated either in your home, hotel or a healthcare setting until public health authorities inform you it is safe for you to return to your usual activities."
HOW WILL I GET PAID IF I'M SICK AND CAN'T WORK?
Full-time and part-time employees infected with the coronavirus can take paid sick leave.
Employees in those categories can also take paid carers leave to look after a member of their household who is sick with the coronavirus.
Casual employees and independent contractors aren't eligible for paid leave. However, the federal government has waived the one-week waiting period for sickness allowance. New applications won't be accepted after March 20.
After that date, sickness allowance will be consolidated into the jobseeker payment, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
"It is a Newstart-level payment and people who are casual employees that wouldn't be able to go to work or because they have to self-isolate or, indeed, have the virus, they would be able to access that payment," he said.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE ISOLATION PERIOD ENDS?
You can leave your home and hotel and return to things like work, school and the gym if you have self-isolated for 14 days and not experienced any symptoms.
Your GP can supply you with a medical certificate if you require one.