A man demonstrates how to put on a face mask and protective clothing during a tour of a COVID-19 evaluation clinic in Montreal. Photo: Graham Hughes / CP
Editor's note: Some of the information in this story has changed. Please click here for the most up-to-date information.
As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 spreads in Canada, the sheer volume of information and misinformation about it can make it difficult to know exactly what is going on, and what to if you think you or someone near you could have the virus.
So Maclean’s has compiled information about the current situation in Canada, symptoms of COVID-19, who is most vulnerable to the virus, as well as self-isolation and notification details for each province and territory. We combed through the official coronavirus webpages of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), which recently published a preliminary report on the outbreak in China. Sources are noted throughout this post.
As each province and territory has its own health terminology—Telehealth Ontario vs. Health Link 811 in Alberta—much of the wording is taken directly from their sites to avoid confusion.
An important note: this information will undoubtedly be revised and updated by the authorities. So click on the links, especially the official sites, for the latest.
Also, wash your hands with soap. Often.
To go directly to information and instructions for your home province, follow the applicable link below:
According to the WHO report on COVID-19 in China, symptoms in confirmed cases included:
A World Health Organization report from the end of February on COVID-19 in China found that:
As of March 11, the Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the public health risk as LOW for the general population. But there is increased risk of more severe outcomes for those:
- heart, renal or chronic lung disease (Ont.)
Those warnings follow the findings of that February WHO report on COVID-19 in China. According to the research team, the age difference among those affected was stark: 21.9 per cent of those over 80 years died, while just 2.4 per cent of all reported cases were children aged 18 and under (only 0.2 percent of those became critically ill).
As well, while 1.4 percent of COVID-19 patients with no other underlying conditions died, those with other conditions experienced much higher death rates:
In more severe cases, public health authorities believe infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death (Sask). Yet, unlike the nature of influenza, pregnant women do not appear to be at a higher risk for the severe form of COVID-19, according to the WHO report.
Contact a care provider in your area to get tested (province-by-province contact information below). There are some basic caveats to observe, though, before and after you get tested, as the B.C. site explains:
The health-care professionals will need to know: a) your symptoms b) where you have been travelling or living c) if you had direct contact with animals, for example, if you visited a live animal market d) if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
As of March 11, there are 103 cases so far in Canada: B.C. (39), Alberta (14), Ontario (42), Quebec (7), per the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, all travellers returning to Canada from Hubei province of China or Iran are advised to:
Travellers returning from other areas under active COVID-19 travel advisories for Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Spain:
As the specific information regarding self-isolation and reporting varies by province, here are the breakdowns, using the wording from their own websites. Please note that new information has and is causing their risk assessments to be re-evaluated.
The risk of COVID-19 may be increased for:
As of March 11, Canada has active COVID-19 travel advisories for 10 nations particularly affected by the virus. Each advisory has detailed information for that specific country:
Getting advice: The Public Health Agency of Canada has an information line about COVID-19 at 1-833-784-4397. It has interpretation services available in multiple languages.
Getting help: contact your primary care provider, local public health office, or call 811 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC.
People arriving in Canada from Hubei Province (China) Iran and Italy are asked to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days and monitor closely for symptoms of illness. If any symptoms arise, connect with your primary care provider, local public health office or call 811.
British Columbians should monitor their health while they are travelling and after they return. If you have any symptoms at all of a cold or influenza, even if they’re mild, stay away from others. If you have been to areas, particularly where we know there has been transmission of COVID-19, then call your health-care provider, call 811, call public health.
Getting help: call Health Link 811 for instructions if any symptoms begin
Anyone returning from outside of Canada, should follow these steps:
If you have returned from the following locations, isolate yourself until 14 days have passed since that trip, even if you are feeling well:
Getting help: call HealthLine 811 (204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257) for direction and to be connected to public health
All travellers should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) for 14 days after returning to Canada and avoid places where you cannot easily separate yourself from others if you become ill. If you have even mild symptoms, stay home and call HealthLine 811 for advice.
If you have travelled to a country with a Level 3 travel advisory, limit your contact with others for a total of 14 days starting the day you began your journey to Canada. This means self-isolate and stay at home. Contact HealthLine 811 within 24 hours of arriving in Canada for direction.
Getting help: call Health Links – Info Santé for advice on where to go to be assessed
If you have symptoms of a respiratory illness (regardless of travel), even if mild, stay home until your symptoms are gone.
Self-isolation is recommended for the following groups for 14 days after departing the area, or since their last known contact or exposure:
Self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 is recommended for the following groups for 14 days after return to Manitoba, or since their last known contact or exposure:
International travellers who develop cold or flu-like symptoms within 14 days of returning to Manitoba should contact Health Links-Info Santé to determine if testing for COVID-19 should be considered. In cases where testing is not recommended, they should stay home (self-isolate) until they are well.
Getting help: contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit
Travellers who have returned from Hubei province in China or from Iran should:
Travellers who have returned from areas under a travel health advisory for COVID-19 should:
Getting help: contact Info‑Santé 811
People who have symptoms People who report symptoms at the airport will be assessed by a quarantine officer. Under the Quarantine Act, the officer is authorized to take appropriate measures if there is a potential public health risk, such as ordering the traveller to be taken to hospital for a medical examination.
People who do not have symptoms Travellers from Hubei Province, China must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) in China page.
Travellers from Iran must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) in Iran page.
Travellers from mainland China and other countries must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19): Travel advice page.
Travellers from the MS Westerdam, a Holland America cruise ship, must follow the detailed recommendations in the “For passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship” section of the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19): Travel advice to obtain the specific recommendations issued by the Government of Canada.
Getting help: contact Telecare 811
All travellers returning to New Brunswick should monitor themselves and their children closely for symptoms for 14 days. Upon return, they should monitor their health for fever, cough or difficulty breathing and avoid places where they cannot easily separate themselves from others if they become ill.
Travellers from some destinations will be given advice by the Canadian Border Services Agency and may be asked to stay at home for 14 days regardless of symptoms. Those people will be notified of this when they arrive in Canada.
If you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing within those 14 days:
On March 10, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced that everyone who returning home from international locations after March 8 should stay away from schools, early learning facilities and educational offices for 14 days. The isolation notice also applies to the University of New Brunswick.
Getting help: call 811 for assessment (Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres. If you need in-person assessment, 811 will refer you to a centre. Don’t go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 referred you)
Nova Scotia Health Authority is limiting visitors at all sites to prevent the spread of any respiratory illness, including COVID-19.
To help protect older Nova Scotians, and those most at risk for severe illness, government is restricting visitors who have travelled outside the country in the last 14 days from entering long-term care homes. As always, don’t enter a facility if you’re feeling unwell.
If you’ve travelled outside Canada, you should closely monitor your health for 14 days after you get back to Canada.
If you’ve travelled recently and you start to feel unwell, you should self-isolate. This means you should stay home, away from the public.
If you develop a fever, with a temperature 38 C or higher, or a cough, you should call 811 for assessment.
Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres. If you need in-person assessment, 811 will refer you to a centre. Don’t go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 referred you.
If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, you can get information from Nova Scotia Health Authority Public Health by contacting the nearest office.
Getting help: Call 811 for instructions
The P.E.I. Chief Public Health Office is advising Islanders travelling outside of Canada to monitor themselves and their children closely for 14 days after returning home. Even if you are feeling well, you are advised to take the following precautions for a two-week period:
Arriving travellers who have been in Hubei province (including Wuhan) or Iran voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days after arriving home. Self-isolation means these travellers should stay at home and not attend school or work. Returning travellers from Hubei are encouraged to call 811 to connect with local Public Health for further advice and support.
All travellers who have returned from travelling outside of Canada (other than Hubei province or Iran) are being asked to monitor themselves and their children closely for 14 days after returning, and to call 811 if they develop any symptoms (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing).
If you have not been travelling recently but are still concerned about coronavirus, please read the following questions carefully:
If the answer is yes to either question, stay at home and call 811 for further assessment.
Getting help: follow-up with your health care provider or call the NL Healthline at 811
If you have traveled to Hubei province in China or Iran, or have been in contact with a suspect or confirmed case of COVID-19 and have symptoms mentioned above, you may be at risk. Avoid contact with others and follow-up with your health care provider or call the NL Healthline at 811.
Getting help: phone 811 or your health provider
If you have signs of a respiratory infection (fever, cough or shortness of breath) AND within 14 days have:
Please stay at home and phone 811 or your health provider.
Getting help: tell your health care provider
If you or your family member have travelled outside of N.W.T. within the last 14 days, the N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer advises that you:
In collaboration with federal and provincial partners, the N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer advises that, if you visited China’s Hubei province or Iran within the last 14 days you should isolate yourself for 14 days upon your return. This is precautionary and we advise self-isolation even if you are feeling well.
Getting help: call your local health centre
If you have been travelling through an affected region and you start having symptoms of COVID-19, or you believe you may have been exposed to an individual with the virus, immediately isolate yourself from others and call your local health centre. Describe your symptoms and travel history.