FAQs and myth-busters — coronavirus (COVID-19)

Q&As: Schools starting back

Q&As: Chief Health Officer on Schools starting back

We sat down with Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young to answer some of your health related questions about school starting back.

Posted by Queensland Health

What is social distancing?

Social distancing (also called physical distancing) is one way to help slow the spread of viruses. Social distancing includes:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Keep 1.5 metres away from others as much as possible.
  • Avoid shaking hands, kissing or hugging others.
  • If you can, work from home.
  • Avoid gatherings that aren’t essential.

Practising social distancing can help protect the people in our community who are most at risk.

Are older people, pregnant women and children more at risk of COVID-19?

Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.

Because they are at greatest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, people in the following groups should stay at home as much as possible and limit contact with other people

  • people aged 70 years and over
  • people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions
  • people with compromised immune systems, and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over.

There haven’t yet been comprehensive studies that show the effect of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies. If you are pregnant, you should continue to take good care of your health, and just like everyone else, wash your hands and stay home as much as possible and practise social distancing when you do need to go out.

Seek medical attention if you experience any signs of illness at any time during your pregnancy.

While there have been confirmed cases in children, a majority of the cases globally are in adults.

What if I don’t have Medicare cover?

Most people who are not eligible for Medicare will have health or travel insurance. To support Queensland’s response to COVID-19, people who do not have adequate insurance coverage and are not eligible for Medicare will not be charged out of pocket expenses if they  present to any Queensland Health facility for assessment and treatment in relation to COVID-19 infection.

These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas to protect their own and their families’ health and to play their part in reducing transmission of the disease.

Should I wear a face-mask or gloves?

You don’t need to wear a face mask to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 unless your doctor has told you to or you are caring for someone who might have COVID-19.

If you have been told to wear a face mask, avoid touching it while you’re wearing it, and if you do, wash your hands. Do not reuse single-use masks, and immediately replace the mask if you have coughed or sneezed into it. When disposing of a mask, dispose of it into a sealable bag to ensure the used mask won’t be touched by others, before placing the sealed bag in the bin. Always clean your hands immediately after removing your mask and putting it in the bin.

You don’t need to wear gloves in the general community to protect yourself from getting COVID-19. In fact, wearing gloves could contribute to the spread of the virus to yourself or others.

This is because germs you pick up on your gloves can be transferred to other surfaces. You might also touch your face while wearing the gloves which can transfer any germs on the gloves to you and cause you to become sick.

The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to regularly clean your hands and practice social distancing.

When should I quarantine myself or my family?

Read our latest information on quarantine requirements.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

Contact a doctor immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat; particularly if you:

  • have been overseas, including on a cruise
  • work in vulnerable settings such as healthcare , aged or residential care, military, a school or childcare, correction facilities, detention centres, police, and boarding schools
  • live in Brisbane, Cairns or the Gold Coast
  • live in or travelled from a COVID-19 hotspot
  • live in or travelled from another state
  • live in a First Nations community.

Before your appointment, please call ahead and mention your symptoms and travel (or contact) history so they can prepare for your visit.

The COVID-19 self-assessment quiz has recommendations on what you should do depending on whether you are unwell, your travel history, and whether you have had contact with someone with COVID-19.

Who can be tested for COVID-19?

At this stage, you can only be tested when you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. Read more about testing.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists from around the world are working on developing a vaccine. This is still some time away.

Are Queensland hospitals prepared for COVID-19?

Queensland public hospitals are well prepared to respond to COVID-19. We have responded to health emergencies in the past, and we will do it again. Read more about Queensland Health’s response plan.

Should I cancel my hospital appointment?

No, you do not need to cancel appointments at any hospitals. It’s safe to attend Queensland hospitals through the emergency department or for an appointment.

If your appointment has been cancelled, delayed or will be offered through telehealth, the hospital will contact you.

Can I catch COVID-19 from tapwater?

There is no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from Queensland drinking water. Current information about transmission of COVID-19 is that it occurs from person to person contact, via droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces. Read more about prevention of COVID-19.

Drinking water (tap water) supplied by registered drinking water service providers in Queensland is safe to drink. More information on drinking water and public health in Queensland.

Is it safe to drink from a water fountain or bubbler?

Drinking water supplied via drinking water fountains and bubblers in public spaces, such as parks, is safe to drink.

Avoid placing your mouth or lips directly on the fountain or bubbler. This is to protect both yourself and others from transferring germs. When filling your water bottle at a drinking water fountain or bubbler, ensure that the spout of your drink bottle does not touch the fountain head or bubbler itself.

As with any surface such as a door handle, the taps and push buttons of a drinking water fountain or bubbler can have germs on them from a previous user. Wash your hands after touching the taps and push buttons or use a clean tissue or your elbow when touching the taps or push buttons.

What happens if I need help while in quarantine?

Community recovery support and assistance is available through the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, for Queenslanders in quarantine due to COVID-19. If you require assistance please call the Community Recovery hotline 1800 173 349.

The Queensland Government is also partnering with the Australian Red Cross, to ensure people have access to support during their period of quarantine. This service includes a regular telephone call to check-in on the person’s wellbeing and to identify any practical support they may need help with.

People who are quarantined can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for further advice and to register for support. Staff at 13 HEALTH can connect people through to a local public health unit and other health support services.

Can I use a taxi or rideshare service?

Queenslanders can leave their homes for essential reasons, such as shopping, medical care, work or study, and exercise. If you need a taxi or rideshare service to do these things, you can use them.

Taxi and rideshare services are operating, however, to comply with social distancing rules, there should only be the driver and persons from one household in the vehicle.This would mean the driver can have one passenger in the vehicle, or the driver can have a group of passengers if they live in the same household.

If you need to use these services, the best option is to sit in the back seat and wash your hands before and after leaving the vehicle.