COVID-19 and the veteran community

DVA’s number one priority is the health and wellbeing of Australia’s veteran community.

For more information on COVID-19, visit the federal Department of Health’s website or phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line 24/7 on 1800 020 080. You can also visit the Department of Health website in your state or territory for the latest updates.

The Government advises all Australians not to travel. Visit the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website for more information.

The coronavirus. Red, crownlike spikes protrude from the surface of a grey ball. The background is black.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against this virus. You should:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet,
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitiser regularly, especially if you have been in public spaces,
  • cover your cough or sneeze, and dispose of tissues, and
  • if unwell, avoid contact with others.

Most infections are transmitted by people when they have symptoms. These can include fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath. There is evidence that some people may be infectious for up to 24 hours before showing symptoms.

Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover within two to four weeks. However, some people experience a more serious illness that requires hospitalisation. The risk of serious illness rises with increasing age, and is higher in people with weakened immune systems or with underlying conditions such as diabetes, or heart and lung disease.

There is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks to prevent transmission in public and this practice is not currently recommended by the Department of Health. A mask can however be very helpful in preventing transmission of disease from an infected person to others.

Another way to slow the spread of the virus is to practise social distancing and this is now recommended by the Department of Health. This includes measures such as:

  • stay home if you are sick
  • avoid handshaking
  • avoid meetings (large gatherings are now banned by the government)

Telehealth, home delivery of medications and shopping assistance

To limit the spread of the virus, the Government has introduced bulk-billed telehealth Medicare appointments for general practitioners, specialists, midwives, some nurses and mental health professionals. Telehealth appointments are those conducted over the phone or via teleconferencing platforms such as Facetime or Skype.

These appointments are available to the following groups:

  • people isolating themselves at home on the advice of a medical practitioner
  • people who meet the current national triage protocol criteria for suspected COVID-19 infection after consultation with either the national COVID-19 hotline, state COVID-19 hotlines, a registered medical or nursing practitioner, or COVID-19 trained health clinic triage staff
  • people aged over 70
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50
  • people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised
  • parents with new babies and people who are pregnant.

On 23 March, the Government announced that telehealth support has moved to Stage 3: vulnerable doctors can now offer telehealth consultations to all of their patients. 'Vulnerable' has the same definition as for patients.Stage 4 of telehealth implementation will see an expansion to allow all patients to access telehealth and will include allied health professionals. There is no set date for this expansion. This will support the goal of social distancing.

More information is available on the Department of Health website. Please contact your health provider to make arrangements.

People in the above groups are also eligible for the home delivery of medications. Please contact your local pharmacy to see if they have this facility. Small pharmacies may not have the capacity to support this initiative.

Further, older and at-risk veterans, or those in self-isolation, can access shopping provided via Veterans’ Home Care.

Who needs to isolate?

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the burden on the health system, you must isolate yourself in the following circumstances:

  • If you have returned from any country overseas you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of arrival in Australia. If you develop any symptoms during this time you should contact your GP surgery by phone.
  • If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case. If you develop any symptoms during this time you should contact your GP surgery by phone.
  • People who must isolate need to stay at home and must not attend public places, in particular DO NOT come to work, go to school, childcare or university. Do not attend public offices such as Services Australia, your local VAN or the local shops. Only people who usually live in the household should be in the home.
  • Do not allow visitors into the home. Where possible, get others such as friends or family who are not required to be isolated to get food or other necessities for you. If you must leave the home to seek medical care, wear a mask if you have one and ensure you call the doctor’s clinic or hospital to forewarn them of your arrival.

What to do if you develop symptoms

You should telephone your doctor’s surgery ahead of time and explain your circumstances. They can then advise you accordingly. Alternatively you can call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 24/7 on 1800 020 080 and be transferred to a Registered Nurse.