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What to do if you are a close contact

Advice on what to do if you are a close contact.

If you have coronavirus visit What to do if I have coronavirus for more information.

Support is available if you need help while in isolation. See Isolation and quarantine extra help and support.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been identified by Department of Health (DH) contract tracers as having spent time with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19). There is a high chance that people who have been close to someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) will get the virus and spread it to other people. The best way to protect yourself, your family and the community is to stay at home and stay away from other people as much as possible.

There are two types of close contacts:

Primary close contacts:

  • someone who has had face-to-face contact or spent time in a closed space with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) while they were infectious.
  • someone who has been in an outbreak or other setting where there is a higher risk of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Secondary close contacts:

  • someone who has had face-to-face contact with a primary close contact at least 24 hours after them being exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Victorian Chief Health Officer or Deputy Chief Health Officer may also identify someone as a primary or secondary close contact based on what is known about a particular case or outbreak.

If a person is identified as a primary or secondary close contact, the Department of Health will notify them as soon as possible.

Who should quarantine (stay at home)?

You should quarantine at home if: 

  1. you may have spent time or live with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  2. you may have spent time or live with someone who may have been exposed to the virus at work, school or somewhere else
  3. you may have been exposed to the virus at work, school or somewhere else
  4. you may have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are waiting for your test result – after your test you must go home immediately without stopping anywhere else
  5. you have been directed by the Department of Health to quarantine
  6. you have been identified as having to quarantine by authorised officers because you have visited an interstate high risk location.

What is quarantine?

Quarantine means you must stay in your home. You cannot leave your house for any reason unless it is an emergency or you need medical help.

The Department of Health will call you and tell you when you can finish your quarantine. You can only leave your home after the Department of Health gives you permission.

You will be required to quarantine if you are an international traveller - please see Information for overseas travellers.

Close contact can happen in many ways, such as:

  • living in the same household or similar setting (for example, a boarding school or hostel)
  • being indoors together, including in a car, lift or public transport
  • direct contact with the body fluids or laboratory specimens of a person with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Primary close contacts must quarantine at home and get tested when the Department of Health asks them to.

Secondary close contacts are also asked to quarantine at home. Quarantining a wider number of people who may have spent time with someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) is done to:

  • identify people who may have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19) and are at risk of infection – identifying people early helps ensure that they don’t spread coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • help identify who the person with coronavirus (COVID-19) caught it from (if this is not already known) and make sure anyone else who has been in contact with them is also quarantined.

Quarantine makes a significant difference to the speed with which new outbreaks can be contained.

Read What to do if you are a close contact factsheet (Word)for more information.

I think I am a close contact – what should I do?

If you think you have had close contact with a person with coronavirus (COVID-19) or may otherwise be a close contact, we recommend you contact the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. You should stay at home until the Department of Health determines if you are a close contact.

I visited a place where I know someone was confirmed to have coronavirus (COVID-19) (such as a school or workplace). Do I need to quarantine?

If you have any symptoms, no matter how mild, you should immediately get tested and self-isolate.

  • You only need to quarantine if you have been identified as a primary or secondary close contact. People who are determined to be close contacts will be contacted by the Department of Health.
  • The notice can be given verbally (such as over the phone or in person) but will be followed up in writing (such as in a text message).
  • The Department of Health will support people through this process.
  • Close contacts are determined through interviews the Department of Health undertakes with people diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) and with primary close contacts.
  • The Department of Health works with each person to determine who they have been in contact with (including while they were infectious or potentially infectious) and determines whether such people are close contacts.

The written notice will provide more information about how long you should quarantine for, your obligations and what to do if you develop symptoms. It will also include advice for the people you live with and information about getting tested both early and late in your quarantine.

I am quarantining at home – what if I live with other people?

  • The Department of Health will tell you if the people you live with also need to quarantine.
  • Try to quarantine in a separate household from the person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) or is a primary close contact, otherwise your quarantine will be longer and you are more likely to get coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes parents with young children or carers who live in the same house.

If you cannot quarantine in a different household:

  • You should stay and sleep in a different room to other people as much as possible. For example, you should not eat dinner or watch TV with the other people you live with.
  • You should use a separate bathroom if available.
  • You cannot have people visit you inside your home or accommodation.
  • Ensure you stay at least 1.5 metres from others in the home when you are out of your room.
  • Wear a mask when you are out of your room.
  • Do not share food and drink. Do not share household items like forks, knives, plates or glasses.

How long does quarantine last?

The length of quarantine varies depending on the reason people must do it. The Department of Health will tell you when you can leave quarantine.

  • If you have returned from overseas - quarantine is 14 days, or 24 days if you refuse to be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) on the request of an Authorised Officer.
  • If you are a primary close contact - you must quarantine (stay at home) for at least 14 days. If you refuse to get tested late in your quarantine period, you must quarantine for an extra 10 days.
  • If you are a secondary close contact - you may need to quarantine (stay at home) for up to 14 days from the last time the primary close contact was exposed to a case, even if you feel well. This is in case the primary close contact has already passed on the infection to you.

The incubation period for coronavirus (COVID-19) is usually 14 days. This means that you could develop symptoms up to 14 days after your last close contact with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

More information about financial support available for those in isolation or quarantine is available on Help and Support.

How to quarantine

I’ve been told to quarantine – what should I do?

  1. If you have symptoms you should get tested. Once you have been tested you must go home and wait for your test results.
  2. If you test positive, or you are a close contact of someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) then you will be notified by the Department of Health.
  3. When notified, if you are not at the place where you will quarantine, you must go there immediately and stay there. You must not make any stops on the way home.
  4. If you are unsure where you should quarantine or do not have a place where you can do so safely, you should call the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
  5. An officer from the Department of Health will call you to support you through your quarantine period. They may talk to you about who you have been in contact with and where you have been to help them identify your close contacts.
  6. Tell the people you live with that you are quarantining at home. This is important as they may need to quarantine themselves.
  7. Support is available to help you stay at home. For more information visit Isolation and quarantine extra help and support.

What do I do if I feel well during quarantine?

Even if you feel well, you need to remain in quarantine until you are cleared by the Department of Health.

What do I do if I feel unwell or have symptoms during quarantine?

If you start to feel unwell or have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) during or at the end of your quarantine period, you should either:

  • call the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 (24 hours, 7 days a week) for advice
  • make an appointment to see your General Practitioner (GP). Phone or video (telehealth) consultations are preferred to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). If you need to see your doctor in person, call ahead of your arrival and let your GP know you are in quarantine and are a close contact of someone with coronavirus (COVID-19) so they can prepare appropriate infection control measures.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Tell them that you are a close contact of a person with coronavirus (COVID-19) and that you are in quarantine.

Can I go outside during quarantine?

While you are in quarantine you need to stay at home (or in the place where you are quarantining).

  • If you are quarantining in a private house or apartment you can go into your garden or onto your balcony. You should wear a face mask when moving through shared spaces to reduce the risk of passing coronavirus (COVID-19) to the people you live with.
  • You are permitted to leave the place you are quarantining to seek medical care.
  • You are permitted to leave the place you are quarantining in an emergency or if required by law.
  • If you or your family are escaping harm or are at risk of harm from family violence, you can leave the place you are quarantining to seek support and assistance. Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You must wear a fitted face mask when you leave the place you are quarantining for any of the above reasons.

You are not allowed to leave the place you are quarantining for any other reason, including shopping or exercise.

If you become unwell or have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you should immediately seek medical advice and get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Can I leave home while in quarantine?

In general, you cannot leave home while in quarantine, including to shop or to exercise.

You are only allowed to leave home for the following special reasons:

  • to get medical care or medical supplies
  • to get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • in an emergency
  • if you or your children are escaping harm or are at risk of harm from family violence – you should also call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You must not allow anyone else to enter your home unless:

  • they normally live there
  • they are also quarantining or isolating there
  • they need to enter for medical or emergency purposes or to provide personal care
  • they provide a disability service or household assistance to support a person who needs help due to their age, disability or chronic health condition.

If you are quarantining in a private house or apartment you can go into your garden or onto your balcony. You should wear a face mask when moving through shared spaces to reduce the risk of passing coronavirus (COVID-19) to the people you live with.

How do I get food or other supplies such as medication while I am in quarantine?

If you don’t live with others, you should order food or supplies to be delivered to your house, or have friends, family or your carer drop off supplies to your house. Anyone delivering these items should not enter your house or come in contact with you – if possible, they should leave the supplies at the front of your door. This is to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19).

Support is available if you need help while in isolation or quarantine. See Isolation and quarantine extra help and support.

I need assistance from a carer, can I get help while in quarantine?

If you need assistance due to your age, disability or a chronic health condition then a service provider, carer, family member or friend can visit your home and provide you with assistance. You should tell your service provider you are in quarantine at home before they visit.

A service provider or carer will need to wear a fitted face mask while visiting your home.

Can I receive deliveries during quarantine?

Yes, but the delivery person should leave your delivery outside your door. They should not enter your home or come close to you in any way. Consider making payment for the delivery online in advance or using a contactless payment method to minimise the chances of physical contact. Avoid paying by cash.

Can I leave home to exercise?

No. If you are a close contact, you cannot leave your home to exercise. Penalties apply.

Can I visit someone in hospital while I am in quarantine?

Only in special, particular circumstances. Speak to the officer from the Department of Health that is supporting you during quarantine if you want to visit someone in hospital while you are in quarantine.

Circumstances where visits might be permitted include if you are the parent or guardian of a child or minor who is in hospital, to support someone giving birth, or to support someone who is dying. Each hospital will determine the conditions, including any necessary safeguards for visitors currently in quarantine.

Leaving quarantine and getting tested

I have symptoms and am waiting for a test result – how do I know when I can stop quarantining?

If the Victorian Department of Health has told you to quarantine (stay at home), even if you get a negative test result, you cannot finish your quarantine until you have been told it is safe to do so by the Victorian Department of Health. If you are unwell, you should also stay home until you are better.

I am a primary close contact – how do I know when I can stop quarantining?

The Victorian Department of Health will tell you when you can leave quarantine.

You will need to get tested on or about Day 11 or later of your quarantine, because you are most likely to become infected within 14 days of your contact with the person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you do not wish to be tested, then your quarantine period will be extended a further 10 days, making your quarantine period 24 days.

If you agree to be tested and your test is negative (and provided that your initial 14 day quarantine period has ended), your quarantine period ends when you are notified by the Department of Health.

If you agree to be tested and your test is positive, you become a person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) and you will be required to isolate. The Department of Health will regularly check on you and your symptoms and tell you when you can stop isolating. View how to isolate for more information.

I am a secondary close contact – how do I know when I can stop quarantining?

The Department of Health will assess whether and when you can be cleared, depending on the circumstances. This will likely be shorter than 14 days, including if your primary close contact gets a negative test result. The Department of Health will tell you when you can leave quarantine.

Why am I being asked to get a test if I don’t have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms?

You could have coronavirus (COVID-19) even though you feel well and may not have any symptoms.

Close contacts are one of the highest risk groups for coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

How do I get a test for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Visit getting tested for information on how to get tested and to find out where your nearest testing location is.

Testing is free and accessible to anyone with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or to close contacts, even if they do not have any symptoms. You do not need to be a citizen or a permanent resident of Australia to access testing. You do not need a Medicare card.

While you wait for your test results you need to continue quarantining at home. It normally takes 1-3 days to get your results. The Department of Health will tell you when you can leave quarantine.

How long do I have to quarantine if I live with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You will need to quarantine until you are cleared by the Department of Health. Often, this is about 14 days, but it may be a shorter or longer period, depending on your circumstances. In most cases, the period of quarantine will be linked to your last contact with a person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) or another relevant person.

If you live with someone diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) and cannot quarantine in separate accommodation – your quarantine (stay at home) period will last longer.

If you can avoid contact with the person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) by staying in separate bedrooms and using separate facilities, then do so as this will reduce the risk of you catching coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you live with a person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) and then you become a person diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19), you will be required to isolate. The Department of Health will regularly check on you and your symptoms and tell you when you can stop isolating.

How to care for those in quarantine

How do you care for someone who is sick during quarantine?

If you are looking after a sick family member and they are in quarantine, there are some important things you should do to keep everyone in your home safe:

  • Ensure the sick person remains in a separate room away from everyone else in the household.
  • Keep the door to the room where the person is quarantining closed and windows in the room open whenever possible.
  • Keep the number of carers to a minimum and do not allow anyone from outside the household to visit.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser before and after entering the room.
  • Keep the person in quarantine's crockery and utensils separate from the rest of the household.
  • If available, wear a surgical mask (single-use face mask) when you are in the sick person's room – if a surgical mask isn’t available wear a fitted face mask.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect high touch surfaces such as tabletops, doors, computer keyboards, taps and handles.
  • Dispose of tissues and masks in a sealed plastic bag and put in the usual household waste.
  • When washing clothes do not shake the sick person’s laundry. You should wash their clothes using a hot water wash with your usual detergent. You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser after handling their laundry. Let their clothes dry completely.
  • If the person starts to feel worse, call the Victorian Coronavirus (COVID-19) Hotline on 1800 675 398 (24 hours, 7 days a week) for advice.
  • If you need to visit your GP, call ahead and tell the GP that you or the person you are caring for is currently in quarantine so they can prepare appropriate infection control measures.

If the person you are caring for develops serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

How can I care for others around me who are in isolation or quarantine?

Think about elderly friends, neighbours, and people with a disability in your community and how you can support each other during a period of quarantine or isolation. If you are not currently in quarantine or isolation but family or friends are, think about how you might be able to help, such as regularly checking in by phone or by supporting them to get food and other necessities.

Enforcing quarantine

Will someone check that I am staying at home?

The Department of Health will contact you regularly to check in and see how you are. They may do this using SMS or a phone call.

Police are conducting random spot checks to ensure people who are in quarantine are complying with directions by staying at home. Police can take enforcement action if necessary.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

If you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) you must isolate until you receive clearance from the Department of Health.

If you have been identified as a close contact you must quarantine for at least 14 days since your last contact with the person who has tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19).

A fine of $4,957 can be issued to a person found to have breached the requirement to isolate or quarantine for a second or subsequent time.

Victoria Police can issue on the spot fines of up to $1,652 for individuals and up to $9,913 for businesses for:

  • Refusing or failing to comply with the emergency directions.
  • Refusing or failing to comply with a public health risk power direction.
  • Refusing or failing to comply with the Public Health Directions to provide information.

Fines of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses are possible through the court system. Individuals who do not wear a face mask and do not have a lawful reason can be fined $200.

Reviewed 15 February 2021

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have coronavirus (COVID-19) call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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