COVID cases on the rise, prompting call to mask up

Australia appears to be on the cusp of an eighth COVID-19 wave, with an increase in cases across the country. 

Victoria’s acting chief health officer has suggested all Melburnians consider donning masks again as community transmission surges, while NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant says case numbers will likely rise in the lead-up to Christmas.

Here’s a quick refresh on all of the key facts about COVID.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Health experts say COVID-19 has similar symptoms to the common cold or flu.

The Australian government lists the most common symptoms of COVID-19 as:

  • fever (37ºC or higher)
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing).

Some of the less common symptoms you could experience include:

  • muscle or joint pain
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • temporary loss of smell and/or taste.

For most people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a mild illness that can be managed at home by resting, eating a balanced diet, and staying hydrated.

How long do you have to isolate with COVID-19?

Isolation is no longer a legal requirement if you test positive for COVID-19.

But it is strongly recommended you stay home if positive.

If you have tested positive, the Australian government says you should not visit high-risk settings such as hospitals and disability aged-care settings:

  • for at least seven days or until symptoms have gone
  • unless seeking urgent medical assistance.

If you are planning to leave your home while infected, consider:

  • avoiding contact with people who are at a higher risk of severe disease
  • wearing a mark
  • practising good hygiene
  • avoiding school, pubic areas, or travel on public transport or rideshare services.

How long is COVID contagious for?

There’s no exact time frame.

“The infectious period is dependent on individual factors such as age, severity of illness, vaccination status, including time since last vaccination against COVID-19, and whether someone is immunocompromised,” said a federal Department of Health spokesperson.

“Some people can have a prolonged infectious period, however, most people with mild-moderate illness are unlikely to be infectious for more than 10 days after symptom onset.

“Recent evidence suggests most children are likely no longer infectious by five days following a positive COVID-19 test.”

How long does it take to recover from COVID?

Most people infected with COVID recover within a few weeks of their first symptoms.

However, some people can experience symptoms of the virus for several weeks after infection. This is known as long COVID.

People with long COVID report feeling extreme tiredness and fatigue, difficulty breathing, and problems with memory and concentration – ‘brain fog’.

The Australian government says long COVID recovery times will differ for each person, but most recover within three to four months.

What are the rules about face masks?

Face masks are no longer mandatory in most places.

But each state and territory has its own advice about face coverings and COVID-19 – so the advice is slightly different depending on where you are.

Here’s a quick wrap of what each jurisdiction’s health department says on masks:

Australian Capital Territory

Masks are strongly recommended in indoor public spaces for people who have tested positive to COVID-19 if they need to leave the home, and for household contacts of people with COVID-19.

ACT health website

New South Wales

You may be required to wear a mask in NSW when visiting high-risk settings such as aged and disability care. Masks are also recommended in general practices, medical centres and pharmacies.

NSW health website

Northern Territory

In the NT, wearing a mask remains recommended in indoor and outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.

NT health website

Queensland

You should consider wearing a mask:

  • if you’re vulnerable (at higher risk of disease)
  • if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of an acute respiratory infection
  • if you’re a close contact
  • where requested by someone inside their home.

Qld health website

South Australia

It is recommended you wear a face mask in SA if you:

  • are a close contact and are indoors or on public transport
  • visit a high-risk setting such as a clinical area in an aged care facility, disability facility or a hospital
  • visit someone who is at risk of severe illness from COVID-19
  • go to crowded indoor public places, travel on public transport, or when you cannot physically distance from others when COVID-19 cases in the community are high.

SA health website

Tasmania

Wearing a mask is recommended where physical distancing is not possible.

You should consider wearing a mask if you are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or are in contact with people who are at a higher risk.

If you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, you should wear a mask if you need to leave your home.

TAS health website

Victoria

The government recommends wearing a mask:

  • for at least seven days if you have COVID-19 and you need to leave home, you are indoors, or, you cannot maintain physical distance
  • if you are a close contact and you need to leave home
  • if you are visiting or working in a sensitive setting such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

VIC health website

Western Australia

Face masks are not mandatory in Western Australia, but they should be worn in crowded indoor spaces and where physical distancing is not possible.

WA health website

When do COVID-19 RATs expire?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recommends against the use of expired rapid antigen tests (RATs).

If you’re unsure when the test you have at home expires, you can check the TGA’s website to see the approved shelf life of specific brands of RATs.

What is the global death toll from COVID?

As of 25 October 2023, there have been almost seven million COVID-19 deaths globally reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has recorded more than 23,300 COVID deaths.

Have you noticed an increase in COVID cases in your area? Will you take extra precautions? Share your views in the comments section below.

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