Coronavirus outbreak: The rules to follow if you have to self isolate

Mar 17, 2020
There are set government guidelines you should follow while in self-isolation. Source: Getty

Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic last week, as the number of confirmed cases, and sadly deaths, continues to rise right across the globe. With politicians introducing new measures to tackle the outbreak, now more than ever, people are being told to self-isolate if there’s a chance they have contracted Covid-19.

Currently, anyone who arrives from overseas, or who has been in contact with a known case, is being told to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. While those who have presented symptoms of the virus and are awaiting results from a test must also self-isolate.

If you’re found outside during this isolation period you will be fined for breaching a public health order, with each state and territory having different rules in place. In Queensland the penalty is around $13,000, NSW is $11,000, Tasmania is $8,400 and Victoria’s penalty is $6,600. However, The steepest fines come from South Australia with a fine of $25,00, while Western Australia has a maximum penalty of $50,000 and 12 months in jail.

While monitoring of self-isolation is tricky, experts have advised Aussies to take it seriously to stop the virus from spreading further. Speaking to the ABC recently, NSW Health medical epidemiologist Christine Selvey said while it was a “big ask of people” to self-isolate, you should “try to take advantage of the time to do things that you’ve been wanting to”.

But what does it mean to self-isolate, and what rules should you follow if you find yourself in this position?

Stay at home

When in self-isolation, the Department of Health recommends you stay inside your home, unless you’re seeking medical care. This means not going to work, the shops, gym or any other public space until you’ve been given the all clear by your doctor.

If you live in a private house, you can still go into your garden or courtyard, but if it’s an apartment building, this should only be done for short periods and while wearing a surgical mask. For food and other necessities officials recommend arranging a delivery service, or asking a family member or friend who isn’t in self-isolation to head to the shops for you – just make sure they leave it outside the door and don’t come inside.

Separate yourself from others

If you live alone, you’re free to roam around your home at your pleasure, but if there’s others occupying the premises, you must stay away from them, especially if they’re at severe risk of contracting the virus, such as the elderly and those with heart, lung or kidney conditions and diabetes.

If possible, use a separate bathroom and stay in a bedroom by yourself. Don’t go into communal areas if possible, and remember to always wear a surgical mask when you’re around others. Although you may feel a little lonely being in self-isolation for two weeks, it’s important to limit interactions unless it’s essential.

Clean thoroughly

The NSW Health Department recommends a thorough clean of the house at least once a day while in self-isolation to reduce the risk of germs spreading. This includes wiping down all “high-touch” surfaces such as door handles, light switches, toilets, phones, keyboards and tabletops with household detergent or disinfectant and while wearing disposable gloves.

All laundry should also be washed thoroughly at the highest temperature recommended to ward of any nasty bugs and dishes should be washed in a dishwasher where possible instead of by hand.

Keep yourself busy

Self-isolation for two weeks can become a bit monotonous and the need to engage with others grows by the hour, so it’s important to try to keep yourself busy and entertained during this period. Although it may prove a little difficult, try keep up normal daily routines, such as regular meals and exercise (in the confines of your home of course).

If you’re still employed, see if there’s a way to do your work from home, or use the time to sort any chores you’ve been putting off around the house. If there’s nothing on your to-do list then try use the time to relax for a bit – there’s nothing wrong with putting your feet up and chilling out for a while.

You don’t want your mental health to suffer during the 14 days so keep in touch with family and friends over the phone, email, or through social media. It might not be the same as catching up in person, but at least you won’t feel quite so isolated from the rest of the world.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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