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What to do if you think you have coronavirus (COVID-19)

Public health authorities have outlined the steps you should take if you think you might be infected.

We’ll continue updating this page with resources and information as new details emerge on how Canadian leaders and businesses are responding to COVID-19.

Warning iconIf you have travelled overseas or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are showing flu-like symptoms, the Canadian government and public health authorities require the following:

  • Get a COVID-19 test prior to returning. You will only be allowed to board your flight to Canada after showing proof of negative test results.
  • Isolate yourself at home for 14 days. Stay in a separate room, and keep at least 2 metres away from other people.
  • Call your doctor or local public health authority. Tell them your symptoms, and follow their instructions.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, a pandemic. This has led to strict social distancing measures being adopted around the globe.

In Canada, if you have recently travelled overseas or have been in contact with a known case of coronavirus, you may have unknowingly contracted the disease. Here’s what you can do to help protect yourself and others.

Who should I contact?

If you think you may have coronavirus or may have come into contact with someone who does, the Public Health Agency of Canada advises you to self-isolate at home for 14 days and contact your doctor for further instructions.

If you’re unable to reach your doctor or don’t have a family physician, contact the public health authority in your province or territory to find out what your next step should be. (See the links below for more details.)

If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

COVID-19: Symptoms and contagiousness

Symptoms of coronavirus include a fever, coughing, shortness of breath, loss of smell or taste, muscle or body aches, headaches and chills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the condition is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets getting passed from infected to non-infected people through talking, sneezing and coughing.

Coronvirus can spread easily. Since the virus was identified as a global threat, over 668,000 cases have been confirmed in Canada, and over 90 million cases have been confirmed worldwide. It’s difficult to gather accurate statistics on COVID-19, and much about the virus remains unknown. According to a New York Times report, it appears to be more contagious than the average flu, rising instead to levels comparable to major flu pandemics throughout history.

Check out the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus Situation Dashboard to view the latest regional stats on how the virus has progressed.

Take the self-assessment test

To decrease congestion at medical facilities and assist medical staff, the government has created a self-assessment test that you can take on your own to determine if you need further testing for coronavirus. You can take this test on the web or via mobile app (available on Google Play and the App Store). The mobile app also lets you get the latest coronavirus updates and resources from trusted authorities.

COVID-19 self-assessment test

Download the COVID Alert app

On July 31, 2020, the federal government released the COVID Alert app (for Android and iOS) to help track and prevent the spread of coronavirus. This non-mandatory app lets users report if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and anonymously notifies people nearby that they may have been exposed.

Currently, only residents of Ontario can use the app to report their test results, but soon this functionality will be extended across Canada (the exact date has not yet been announced).

The World Health Organization has reliable global information about the spread of COVID-19. You can check their situation dashboard to get the latest numbers on infections and mortality rates per country.

You can also visit the following government websites to get updates as they’re release.

There are plenty of news sources providing live updates on the situation, but it’s always best to check government or professional medical communications to ensure you have the most informed and current information.

How do I protect myself and others from the coronavirus?

To help slow down the rapid spread of coronavirus, public health authorities are urging the public to adopt a number of good practices including the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based sanitizers to keep the areas around you clean.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Sneeze into your elbow and cover your nose completely when using a tissue; dispose of used tissues right away.
  • Talk to health professionals right away if you feel symptoms. The earlier you can identify coronavirus, the sooner you can be isolated and reduce the risk of affecting other people.
  • Don’t overstock on items. Buy what you need, so others (including medical professionals) can get what they need too.
  • Engage in social distancing to avoid spreading the virus. Keep a distance of at least 1-2 metres between yourself and other people. This means limiting the amount of time you spend in public places and staying at home as much as possible.

Is there a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. As of early 2021, Health Canada has approved 2 vaccines for use in treating COVID-19: the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Other vaccines are being developed and tested by companies like Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (working together in partnership), Novavax and AstraZeneca. The government has signed agreements with these companies to secure millions of doses of vaccines as they become available.

Vaccines are free and will distributed across provinces and territories in phases with high-risk people receiving the first doses. This includes people living or working in senior care facilities, elderly people, healthcare workers and adults in Indigenous communities.

After this, vaccine stations will be set up across the country over time. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that every Canadian who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by September, 2021. Check out your provincial or territorial website to find out when vaccines will become available in your region.

How the Canadian government and big businesses are responding to medical needs

Thankfully, the federal government and large companies across Canada have stepped up to the plate to address some of the nation’s most pressing medical needs.

In response to a shortage of protective face masks, the government ordered millions of N95 masks from abroad to be distributed across the country. Unfortunately, 1 million masks ended up failing Canadian filtration standards. There was speculation that the masks could be donated to non-health care workers who don’t have to follow the strictest face covering standards.

Difficulty in obtaining quality supplies from overseas hasn’t been the only problem the government has had to face. High competition from other countries in the world looking for the same supplies and heavy traffic in countries selling supplies has forced political leaders to look for domestic solutions to the shortage.

The federal government has given millions of dollars to manufacturers like 3M to produce millions of high-quality protective face masks. It has also invested billions of dollars in a Safe Return to Class Fund to help schools reopen safely.

Private companies across Canada have been shouldering some of the burden as well. BCE Inc. (formerly Bell Canada Enterprises) found it could get 1.5 million N95 and K95 face masks from its suppliers and is donating these to healthcare workers and others on the frontline of battling coronavirus. Calgary-based Fluid Energy has agreed to produce over 1 million litres of hand sanitizer per month. Rocky Mountain Soap Factory was approved by Health Canada to produce a hand sanitizer made with natural ingredients.

On April 23, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $1.1 billion investment into a national medical research strategy to address COVID-19. The plan addresses 3 main points: (1) researching vaccines and treatments, (2) supporting clinical trials and (3) expanding national testing and modelling. Another part of the investment involves creating a COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, which brings together some of Canada’s best medical minds to work collaboratively on serology testing (blood testing) to track and understand COVID-19 immunity.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed to provide assistance where needed, particularly in specific long-term care facilities where there is an especially high rate of COVID-19 cases and a shortage of personal care workers.

What Canada’s coronavirus response plan means for you

Has COVID-19 hurt your income?

If you’re struggling to keep up with your finances – you’re not alone. You can save plenty of cash by doing some simple admin with your bills and expenses. Switching credit cards or downgrading your mobile phone plan can potentially save you some money.

Carefully managing your finances can help you get through this difficult time – you’ll be glad you did it.

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