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How to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19 infection

How COVID-19 is spread

COVID-19 spreads very easily through close contact with people who have the virus.

When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release small droplets containing the virus. You can catch it by breathing in these droplets or touching surfaces covered in them.

You are more likely to catch it indoors and in crowded places.

You can still catch or spread COVID-19 if you:

  • do not have symptoms
  • are fully vaccinated
  • have had the virus before

Many people will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days, but you can be infectious for up to 10 days.

How to reduce your risk of COVID-19 infection

It’s important to wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

If you're at increased risk from COVID-19

If you or your child are at increased risk of getting ill from COVID-19, try to avoid contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19 until they feel better.

You may also want to:

  • open windows and doors if you meet people inside, or meet them outside instead
  • stay at least 2 metres away from people (particularly indoors or in crowded places)
  • work from home if you can, or talk to your employer about how they can help reduce your risk at work
  • wear a face covering when it's hard to stay away from other people
  • think about asking people to wear a face covering or take a rapid lateral flow test if you're meeting them inside

How to avoid spreading COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, there are things you can do to help you avoid passing it on to other people, including those you live with:

  • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and encourage children to do this
  • regularly clean surfaces you touch often (such as door handles and remote controls) and in shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms
  • try to stay away from other people, including those you live with, until you feel better
  • let people who need to come into your home know that you’ve tested positive or have symptoms
  • think about asking friends, family or neighbours to get food and other essentials for you
  • avoid indoor or crowded places (including public transport or large social gatherings) or places where there is not much fresh air if you need to leave your home
  • wear a face covering when it's hard to stay away from other people
  • let healthcare professionals know about your positive test result or symptoms if you’re asked to attend an appointment in person

More information

Page last reviewed: 21 March 2023
Next review due: 21 March 2026