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People with disability — COVID-19

Everybody is at risk of getting COVID-19. Most people will only develop mild illness and recover. Others can get very sick and may need to go to hospital.

Some people with disability could have more serious complications if they get sick with COVID-19, depending on the nature of their disability and other medical history.

Vulnerability to COVID-19

Some people with disability may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially if they:

  • have high support needs and cannot physically distance
  • have pre-existing health conditions such as a respiratory condition, a compromised immune system, heart disease or diabetes
  • face challenges in accessing healthcare information
  • have a disruption to their regular medication and services
  • are aged 70 years and over
  • are a First Nations person aged 50 years or over
  • are living in supported accommodation or group residential settings.

These factors can increase the risk of people with disability catching the virus and getting very sick. It's important to prepare yourself and your family in case you get COVID-19.

Preparing for COVID-19

Think about essential supports you need and consider the services you can't live without. Talk to your service providers and health professionals to develop a plan for your own personal health and safety.

You can make your own Emergency Preparedness Plan (PDF) using the Queensland Disability Network’s individual planning tool for COVID-19, available in accessible formats. The plan will help you prepare for staying at home for a long period of time, and prepare for what to do if you, or your carer, have COVID-19 symptoms.

Traffic light advice for COVID-19

Queensland Health has developed a traffic light system to provide information about COVID-19. The levels of the traffic light – red amber, or green – are based on the current level of risk in the community.

Learn more about the traffic light system, and what level Queensland is currently experiencing.

What to do if you feel sick

It is important that you test for COVID-19 if you have symptoms. You should use a RAT kit to test yourself for COVID-19 if you have COVID-19 symptoms. A support worker or carer can help you with the test at home. You can also go to a clinic or general practitioner's (GP) to have for a RAT. If you have an eligible Commonwealth concession card or are part of an eligible group, you can access free RAT kits from Queensland Health RAT distribution points.

You can still get a COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at private pathology-operated locations.

You can also call your GP and ask them about testing options that suit your needs. If you do not have any viable options due to your disability-specific support needs, please contact 134 COVID (13 42 68) to discuss alternative arrangements.

You can find advice on how to explain the testing process to a person with disability (PDF).

Medicines for COVID-19

Medicines for COVID-19 are now available for people at high risk of developing severe illness. These medicines can reduce the need for you to go to hospital. Treatment needs to start within five days of developing symptoms or testing positive to COVID‑19. Check to see if you are eligible and find out who to talk to about your options. You can also read:

To get the medicines, you will need:

It’s a good idea to plan ahead and talk with your medical team now about what to do if you catch COVID-19, and how you can get medicines. This can be your GP, specialist or nurse practitioner.

How to use a saliva Rapid Antigen Test

Duration 00:03:05 |

How to get tested using a Rapid Antigen Test.

Hi, I'm Dr Dinesh Palipana.

I'd like to talk to you about the RAT test and show you how to use it.

There are two types of Rapid Antigen Tests, the nasal swab and the saliva test.

The saliva test

Here are the basic steps.

Step one - Cough deeply three to five times covering your mouth with the mask or tissue.

Step two - Put the mouthpiece on top of the tube.

Step three - Squeeze the tube in the middle.

Step four - Spit into the mouthpiece.

Step five - Stop squeezing the tube.

Step six - Do this until the spit gets to the first line at the bottom of the tube.

Step seven - Take the mouthpiece off the tube.

Step eight - Open the pack with the buffer and pour it into the tube.

Step nine - Put the lid on the tube.

Step ten - Squeeze the bottom part of the tube ten to 15 times.

Step eleven - Get the strip that will show you if you have COVID 19.

Step twelve - Squeeze two drops from the tube onto the circle.

Step thirteen - Set your timer or watch for 15 minutes.

Step fourteen - after 15 minutes, read the result.

Reading the test result - your test is positive if you will see a red line next to the letter C and next to the letter T, even if it's a very faint line.

Your test is negative if you will only see a red line next to the letter C.

There will be no red line next to the letter T.

The test did not work - if you do not see a line next to the letter C or there is no line at all.

If your test was negative but you still think you might have COVID 19, do another test after one day or go to a testing clinic and ask for a PCR test.

When you have finished with the kits.

Put the used test kit inside the box and throw it in the bin.

Clean the area where you did the test and wash your hands.

Always remember that if you test positive, isolate immediately and follow the important steps on how to protect yourself, your family and friends.

How to use a nasal Rapid Antigen Test

Duration 00:02:23

How to get tested using a Rapid Antigen Test.

Hi, I'm Dr Dinesh Palipana.

I'd like to talk to you about the RAT test and show you how to use it.

There are two types of Rapid Antigen Tests, the nasal swab and the saliva test.

For the nasal swab, here are the basic steps.

Step one - Wash your hands.

Step two - Open the packaging.

Step three - Swab each nostril five times.

Step four - Put the swab in the tube and then swirl it for ten seconds, then remove the swab.

Step five - Put the cap on the tube.

Step six - Put five drops on the test.

Step seven - Wait 15 to 30 minutes and then

Step eight - Read the result.

Reading the test result. Your test is positive if you will see a red line next to the letter C and next to the letter T, even if it's a very faint line.

Your test is negative if you will only see a red line next to the letter C. There will be no red line next to the letter T.

The test did not work if you do not see a line next to the letter C or there is no line at all.

If your test was negative but you still think you might have COVID 19, do another test after one day or go to a testing clinic and ask for a PCR test.

When you have finished with the kits, put the used test kit inside the box and throw it in the bin.

Clean the area where you did the test and wash your hands.

Always remember that if you test positive, isolate immediately and follow the important steps on how to protect yourself, your family and friends.

What to do if you have COVID-19

There is no more mandatory isolation for COVID-19 in Queensland; however you should follow the first steps if you have COVID-19.

Most people with COVID-19 who are vaccinated will only get mild symptoms that last a few days. Looking after yourself is important and you should let someone know if you are getting worse.

Seek medical help if your symptoms do not improve after 2-3 days, or if you are getting sicker. Call Triple Zero (000) if you are very sick.

Read more about symptoms and medical care for COVID-19 in Queensland.

Getting help with COVID-19

There are number of ways for you to get help if you have COVID-19:

  • call your GP and ask for a phone or video call appointment (telehealth)
  • call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for assistance with connecting you to a health professional or hospital care, if required
  • complete the online COVID-19 care self-checker to find out the type of care you need
  • read Queensland Disability Network (QDN)'s Getting the COVID care you need (PDF).

Call emergency services on Triple Zero (000) if you are very sick.

If you need more help you can contact:

  • the Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787
  • Queensland Health on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25) – for health-related advice from a qualified nurse. Press 1 for advice about COVID-19.
  • 134 COVID on 13 42 68 to register a positive RAT result, booking a vaccine, testing or information about COVID-19 restrictions
  • TTY users who have a hearing, visual and/or speech impairment can call 133 677.
  • National Relay Services - you can use this service to contact any number given here, including to call 000 in an emergency.

More information about COVID-19 including updates and support is available from:

Your carer or support worker

If someone looks after you, like a carer or support worker, they can continue to do so even if you have COVID-19. They will need to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing your care. They can find out what they need to do by reading Disability support workers and carers.

If your carer or support worker is sick

If your support person feels unwell, they should get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.

Your support person may not be able to work while they are waiting for their test results. This could take a few days. During this time, your support person should arrange for someone else to meet your support needs. You can also call your service provider to discuss what your options are.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) have made changes to how people with a NDIS plan can access support. Visit the NDIS website or call the NDIA on 1800 800 110.

If you don’t have a regular service provider, call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.

How to get help

Duration 00:04:13

How to get help.

Hi. I'm Dr. Dinesh Palipana.

COVID-19 continues to circulate in Queensland and it can be scary thinking about what could happen if you got the virus, especially if you're living by yourself or if your family or support workers get sick too.

That's why it's very important for you to have a COVID care plan and a COVID ready kit in case you get sick and need to isolate immediately.

If your support person feels unwell, they should get tested and call a doctor or helpline to ask what to do next.

Your support person will not be able to work while they're waiting for their test results. This could take a few days.

During this time your support person should arrange for someone else to look after you.

You can also call your service provider to discuss what your options are. If you don't have a regular service provider and need support call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.

It's important to seek medical care if you are worried about your symptoms, especially if they're not improving and you are getting worse.

If you need more help during isolation, there are helplines you can call.

Option one, The National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. For help with your symptoms or looking after yourself at home. Press four, if you work in disability or aged care. Press five, if you are a person with disability or carer of a person with disability.

Option two, if you are not sure of your symptoms or the kind of care you need, you may check your symptoms using the online self-checker form. Once you complete the form, you'll be given the self-care information you need.

Option three, if you want to speak to a nurse, call 13 HEALTH on 13 43 25 84 and press three for health advice about COVID-19.

Option four, for help registering a positive RAT, booking a vaccine, testing or information about COVID-19 restrictions. Call 134 COVID on 13 42 68. If you have a hearing, visual and/or speech need, call the Teletypewriter or TTY on 133 677 in an emergency call 106 using a teletypewriter or text phone use only.

Option five, call triple zero or go to an emergency department if you have severe symptoms. When you call the hospital, tell the hospital staff that you have COVID-19.

Option six, for latest advice on COVID-19 services and support, you can also call the Queensland Disability Network on 07 32 52 85 66 or visit the QDN website.

The Disability Information Helpline on 1800 643 787.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, or NDIS on 1800 800 110 or visit the NDIS website.

The National Disability Insurance Agency or the NDIA have made changes to how people with NDIS plan can access support.

Your mental wellbeing

There may be times when you feel worried, scared or upset about COVID-19. This is normal. You may also feel isolated if you are spending less time with family, friends or your support network. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look after your mental wellbeing.

Beyond Blue has trained counsellors available to offer you support 24/7. Visit the Beyond Blue website or call 1800 512 348.

The Council for Intellectual Disability has easy-read resources to support mental health. The Australian Government also has many helpful resources at Head-to-Health.

Getting your regular medical care and prescriptions

You should not stop your regular health care services and appointments as this will put you more at risk of getting sick.

Telehealth can now replace some face-to-face appointments. Call your doctor or other healthcare professionals to discuss your options.

More information for people with disability

Written resources

The Australian Government has easy read coronavirus resources for people with disability.

The Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) also have accessible information on:

The NDIS website also provides COVID-19 information for NDIS participants.

Video resources

COVID-19 update from Dr Lynne McKinlay, Deputy Chief Health Officer

In this video, Dr Lynne McKinlay, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Queensland, talks about protecting yourself against COVID-19, getting vaccinated, treatment options for COVID-19, and how employers can manage risks of COVID-19 to clients and employees. This video has English captions and a transcript.

Duration 00:03:36

I want to talk about what you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that the pandemic has had a profound impact on people

living with disability and all Queenslanders over the past two and a half years.

What we have experienced since 2020 is unlike anything Queenslanders have been through in recent history.

I can understand that some people may be worried about feeling safe in the community

following the latest changes to vaccination and isolation requirements.

Into the third year of this pandemic, we are all much more experienced in understanding and managing the risks of COVID-19 to ourselves and those we care about.

As we learn to live with COVID-19 and its risks, we all need to consider how to act

to protect ourselves, those we work with, our loved ones and others in our community.

There are some simple things we all can do and should continue to do:

  • Mask wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing are effective ways to reduce transmission, and ones that we are all now very familiar with.
  • For example, many people choose to wear a mask when entering a crowded place for the added protection.
  • We also strongly encourage everyone to stay home if they are unwell and to test for COVID-19.

Vaccination against COVID remains the best protection against severe illness. The scientific evidence is clear that vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease, including hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation recently estimated that vaccination in 2021 prevented nearly 20 million deaths across the world.

The booster doses, that's the third and fourth doses, have been shown to provide additional protection for people at increased risk.

I understand that some people have been reluctant to get vaccinated because of health concerns or other reasons.

Please talk with your general practitioner, your pharmacist, or another trusted health professional if you are still considering vaccination or thinking about getting the booster.

Finally, there is a range of treatment options available if you test positive for COVID-19, and I encourage you to speak with your general practitioner about these.

Speak to your doctor now and be prepared.

Service providers are responsible for managing the risk of COVID-19 to their employees and clients. This is a standard workplace health and safety obligation for businesses.

Employers can implement any reasonable measure to ensure the health and safety of their staff and clients and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 on their business and workforce. This might include additional protection and infection control measures through local guidelines or policies.

We are encouraging service providers to respect any reasonable request from a client to take additional infection control measures, such as wearing a mask.

If you are a client of a disability support service, please talk to your service provider about their local policies and what they can do to respond to your needs and preferences and address risks you may be concerned about.

For example, it is reasonable for you to ask your disability support worker to wear a mask while they are working with you.

Queensland Health will continue to spread the message that we all have a responsibility to care for and support each other as we learn to live with COVID-19.

How to complete a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT)

Duration 00:01:09

How to get tested using a Rapid Antigen Test.

Hi, I'm Dr Dinesh Palipana.

I'd like to talk to you about the RAT test and show you how to use it.

The Rapid Antigen Test can tell you if you have COVID-19.

They are called RAT for short.

A RAT should be done within the first seven days when symptoms first appear.

Most tests produce results within 10 to 20 minutes.

You can buy a RAT kit online, from a pharmacist, supermarkets and select retail stores.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration or TGA has a list of all the approved kits that you can use at home.

You may be eligible to get a free RAT kit if you have a concession card or are NDIS participants.

To find out more, visit the NDIS website.

Going to the hospital during COVID-19

Duration 00:03:26

Hi – I’m Alex and I want to help you understand what it means if you need to go to the hospital during COVID-19.

You might have heard people talk about coronavirus. In these videos, COVID-19 means the same thing.

If you need to go to hospital, you might see that things are a bit different because of COVID-19.

When you arrive at a hospital you may be asked some questions and have your temperature checked.

You may be asked to wear a mask and use some hand sanitiser to clean your hands.

If you can’t wear a mask, you may be able to wear a face shield.

You may see that some of the doctors and nurses are wearing gowns, masks, face shields and gloves. These changes are to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

When you come to hospital it is helpful to bring information about yourself. You could bring a disability health passport such as ‘Julian’s Key’ or a list of your medications, health conditions or other important information.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can ask to have information written down for you or you can get a ‘Hospital Kit’ from Better Hearing Australia.

You can have a family member, carer or support person with you when you go to hospital.

Call the hospital before you go and let them know who is coming with you.

The rules about who can visit you in hospital change often during COVID-19. Make sure you check on the hospital website or phone the hospital and ask someone for the latest rules.

Doctors and nurses will ask you questions when you come to hospital – about how you are feeling, how you like to communicate, if you are an NDIS participant and what supports you usually have.

They will also ask you questions about where you have been recently to check if you have been in the same place where someone who is positive for COVID-19 has also been at the same time.

Nurses and doctors might need to do tests like taking your temperature or checking your blood pressure. If you have any questions or are feeling confused, you can ask the doctor or nurse to explain what they are doing and why.

When you are in hospital, a doctor might give you medicine or other treatments that you have not had before. If you do not understand what the treatments are for or you have any questions, ask your nurse or doctor. They are happy to explain things to you.

Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about going home. They will tell you about any steps you need to follow when you get home.

Remember - you can ask as many questions as you like.

You can also ask to have information written down so you can look at it later or give it to your family member or support worker.

You also have the right to tell the hospital if you have any suggestions, compliments or complaints about the care you received. You can ask hospital staff the best way to do this.