By Widia Jalal
The spread of coronavirus has changed the way we live, as economic, financial and social impacts reverberate across the globe.
Many countries have now closed their borders, businesses have shut their doors and hundreds of thousands of Australians have lost their jobs.
To help you navigate through this rapidly changing world we asked what you wanted to know about COVID-19.
Over the past month we received 45,000 questions which gave an insight into Australia’s biggest worries related to the outbreak.
Every day, your questions have helped guide our approach to covering the pandemic.
Here’s what we’ve learned about you, and the way you’re responding to the coronavirus crisis, along with some of the answers we found for you.
(And yes, we really did read every single question you sent us.)
Questions flooded in from across the country, and one thing was abundantly clear: Many of you wanted to know what symptoms to look out for, and the next steps to take if you have any of them.
Your questions by topic in March
What are the symptoms of coronavirus and are they distinguishable from the usual flu symptoms? – David, WA
My partner woke up with a sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, no body aches and a temperature of 36.9 c, what should we do? – Lisa, Vic
You wondered why COVID-19 was such a big deal, and you wanted to be sure you knew how to tell the difference between coronavirus and a cold or flu – especially when it comes to those who are most at risk.
Why is this outbreak more serious than, say, the common flu that kills hundreds in Australia each year? – Peter, Vic
Is everyone susceptible? – Ian, NT
You were also quick to ask about the impact on children, babies and pregnant women.
I have heard a lot about the virus affecting elderly people and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions, what about pregnant mothers and small children? – Marita, Vic
Should we wait to try and make a baby? Is now a bad time to try and make a baby? – Tim, WA
Some, like Tim, were thinking about the impact on family planning.
While the risks for mothers and babies have been found to be very low, there are no guarantees, so strict prevention measures must still be in place.
You were keen on learning how to stay safe
We have been told to wash our hands for no less than 20 seconds. What is the best way to dry them? – Janis, Vic
Is liquid soap or bar soap more effective in sanitising hands? – Jo
We are advised to stop touching our faces. When I am aware of it, I am touching my face because it itches. Why do our faces itch so much? And why do we touch our faces so much? – Magpie, Vic
The strong message is to maintain great personal hygiene by washing your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face, sneeze into your elbow, practice social distancing and stay home if you’re sick.
If you’re debating whether to use bar soap or liquid soap like Jo, the answer boils down to technique.
This demonstration by Dr Karl also shows how to wash your hands effectively and how to best dry them.
And just for the record Magpie, we don’t blame you.
The fact is if it wasn’t for coronavirus we’d all be touching our faces approximately 23 times per hour.
There were lots of questions about travel
Many of you also wanted to know what self-isolation involves and how it applies to travellers.
What are the details to self-isolate in Australia? – Joe, SA
If any person arrives in Australia from another country, if they live in a different state than where they land, are they free to take another plane home before self-isolating? – Lynette, NT
Early in March, the initial advice on self-isolation only applied to those who had returned from high-risk countries, been in contact with someone who had returned from high-risk countries, or been in contact with a confirmed case.
But that changed on March 15, when all incoming travellers were told to put on a mask and head straight home upon touchdown then self-isolate for 14 days.
On March 28, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared all international travellers must complete their 14-day isolation period at a state-run quarantine centre in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, as returning travellers made up more than two-thirds of Australia’s cases.
So the answer to your question Lynette is that they would need to complete the mandatory isolation before being able to catch a connecting flight back to their home state.
Who’s most worried about travelling?
Territorians seemed the most interested in travel as an issue, with questions on the topic accounting for around one-third of their total queries.
I have to go home to Darwin driving via Gold Coast … do I have to isolate in Queensland even if I’m not staying there or can I just pick up car and start driving to Darwin? – James, NT
Should we go ahead with our road trip from Darwin to Perth in our caravan? – Wendy, NT
If you land in Perth, your home is Darwin, can you fly on a commercial flight to get to your home to self-isolate? If not, how and where do you self-isolate, is accommodation available for these people? – Di Oleary, NT
The NT Government made it clear that as long as you cross their borders, self-isolation is mandatory and accommodation won’t be free if you’re flying in.
You also asked how the NT’s strict border rules compared to other parts of the country.
A 14-day quarantine is mandatory in Tasmania and South Australia for all non-essential travellers.
Western Australia closed its borders at 11.59pm on Sunday.
And you can still get into Queensland if you hold a valid border permit.
But your travel questions didn’t just apply to international or interstate ventures. Many of you asked about the risk of catching the bus or train and whether services would continue to run across the country.
While public transport staff are ramping up the cleaning to keep you safe, you also need to do your part by maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing.
You Ask, We Answer questions by state
You were interested in the science behind it all
How long does the coronavirus survive? Does it survive longer on different surfaces? – Julie, SA
If coronavirus can be found on a variety of surfaces, can it be found on dog fur? And if you pat a dog whose owner has coronavirus, can you potentially pick it up? – Katie, NSW
I feel like supermarkets would be a virus hotbed, so when I bring my groceries home what should I do? – Robyn, NSW
The lifespan of the coronavirus on surfaces was top of your mind, and it even got Katie thinking about whether pets’ fur could contribute to the spread.
A lot of research is still being done, but veterinarian Jenni Trewren reckons you are safe to keep your furry friends close.
Transmission through food was another concern, so we came up with a guide to help you survive the ordeal of grocery shopping.
Tip: Always be sure to wash your fruit and vegetables before eating them.
You were curious about the number of cases
Can we have a graph of cases over time please? – Bronwyn, Qld
Our Digital Story Innovations team built this interactive article to keep you up to date with cases across the country, so, Bronwyn, you can delve into all the numbers and watch as they change over time.
You had growing concerns about welfare and support
As job losses mounted up quickly after the closure of non-essential businesses, many of you asked about the support measures the Government was putting in place.
Some hospitality businesses are still operating, although limited to takeaway services, so you can still support them.
The shift in work habits following the advice to work from home where possible sparked a lot of questions.
What are the tax options for PAYE employees covering work from home expenses — utilities, council rates, office supplies, phone, internet etc? – Fiona, VIC
What is the Government doing for people who have lost their jobs and have rental agreements? – Heather, TAS
When it comes to tax, it’s good to stay on the safe side and keep a record of your expenses.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has also announced a new tax method that allows you to claim 80 cents per hour on all running expenses.
Those who lost their jobs or saw their hours cut were more interested in knowing what alternatives were in store for them.
The Government initially rolled out a stimulus package to provide financial assistance to five major groups, but later extended that help to affected businesses and workers through JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.
If businesses need to lay off staff, can those who have lost their jobs access Centrelink payments instantly to help with rent/food etc.? If so, what is the process? Also, what if you have a mortgage? Are the banks suspending mortgage payments for those who have lost their jobs? – Jo, Vic
For those worried about accessing Centrelink for the first time, we took you through the process step-by-step.
And yes, Jo, the big four banks are offering to freeze mortgage payments.
As for rent, a moratorium is not entirely off the table for residential tenants while commercial tenants may now have the option to defer payments.
Last of all, you wanted to be sure of the rules
Is it safe to walk my dog in the park if I do not go near anybody? – Malcolm, NSW
Is it OK to play golf? – Mary-Anne, ACT
Can my daughter see her boyfriend? – Donna, WA
Am I allowed to take a 20-minute drive to the beach and have a surf? – John, SA
You wanted help understanding the new two-person rule imposed on gatherings and how it might affect you, especially when penalties were set.
The law stipulates that there are only four acceptable reasons to leave home. However, it does differ slightly between states, including the activities you can and cannot do.
Whatever you’re doing, be sure to stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.
By the way John, it’s a good thing you’re in South Australia, because you can still catch a wave there, but with such a rapidly changing rulebook, who’s to say things won’t be different in the next couple of weeks?
How your questions changed during March
If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question, why not check out Coronacast? Or you can send it our way by submitting a question here: