About coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Find out how we define and monitor cases of COVID-19, how you can get vaccinated, and where you can learn more about this disease.

About COVID-19

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Australia was announced on 25 January 2020. COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. 

COVID-19 spreads from person to person by respiratory droplets or small airborne particles when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and is in close contact with others.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe. Some people recover easily while others get very sick. If you have COVID-19 you can experience:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath.

Some people do not experience any symptoms (are asymptomatic) but can still pass on the virus.

COVID-19 can affect anyone, but is especially serious for:

  • older people
  • people with underlying medical conditions
  • pregnant people.

For more information see Groups at higher risk from COVID-19.

Background

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020 and a worldwide pandemic on 11 March 2020. On 5 May 2023, the WHO Director-General announced that WHO no longer considered COVID-19 to be a PHEIC. However, the COVID-19 pandemic declaration is still active.

On 20 October 2023, Australia’s chief medical officer declared that COVID-19 is no longer a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance (CDINS). Australia has shifted to managing COVID-19 like other common communicable diseases, focusing on: 

  • prevention
  • reducing transmission
  • management of serious illness, hospitalisations and death.

Learn more about the pandemic and how it was managed in Australia.

Case definitions

The COVID-19 national surveillance case definition for laboratory-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases is embedded in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) – CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units.

National guidelines

Prevention

There are steps you can take to make sure you and the people around you stay safe. Wearing a face mask can help protect you and those around you. By keeping good hygiene and practising physical distancing, you can protect yourself and others around you from the virus that causes COVID-19.

For more information, see our Protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 page.

The COVID-19 vaccines will provide you with increased protection against severe illness from COVID-19. Staying up to date with your vaccinations gives you the best protection.

Vaccination

Find out more about getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

For information about COVID-19 diagnosis, see our Testing for COVID-19 page.

For information about oral COVID-19 treatments, see our Oral treatments for COVID-19 page.

For more information about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, see healthdirect’s COVID-19 page.

Long term effects

Most people who test positive for COVID-19 recover completely, but some people may develop Long COVID.

The symptoms of Long COVID differ from that of COVID-19. You can experience:

  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint and muscle pain.

Sometimes these symptoms can last weeks or months.

Learn more about Long COVID.

Surveillance and reporting

COVID-19 is a nationally notifiable disease.

We monitor cases through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) and report through:

For historical information on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) surveillance in Australia, see the COVID-19 Australia: Epidemiology Reports.

For more on COVID-19 in Australia, you can:

Date last updated:

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