Frequently Asked Questions – Public Health Measures on COVID-19

March 19, 2020

These frequently asked questions are taken from the Public Health Agency of Canada website —

What should I do to avoid getting this virus?

You should follow the advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the general population.

You can play an active role in staying healthy and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Follow these simple steps recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands;
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • cough or sneeze into your sleeve and not your hands; and
  • stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.

For more information on COVID-19 prevention, consult Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update at

Why is so much attention being paid to hand hygiene?

The Public Health Agency of Canada has indicated that hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against common infectious diseases. Should soap and water not be readily available, people should be encouraged to use hand sanitizer if available.

What are the proper hygiene practices?

Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
    • use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • when coughing or sneezing:
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
    • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • clean the following high-touch surfaces frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water):
    • toys
    • toilets
    • phones
    • electronics
    • door handles
    • bedside tables
    • television remotes

How coronavirus spreads?

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat, and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.

What is the risk?

While the current risk is assessed as low for the overall population, there is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease. We are currently investigating if the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. While experts believe that it is possible, it is considered to be rare.

Symptoms have included:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • pneumonia in both lungs

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

Coronavirus infections are diagnosed by a health care provider based on symptoms and are confirmed through laboratory tests.

What is the treatment for coronavirus?

At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 or any natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19.

Most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own. Your health care provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms.

Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if:

  • you are concerned about your symptoms or
  • you have a travel history to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur

The sooner you consult your health care provider, the better your chances are for recovery.

If you have COVID-19, reduce contact with others

If you are sick, the following steps will help to reduce contact with others:

  • stay at home and self-isolate (unless directed to seek medical care)
    • if you must leave your home, wear a mask or cover your mouth and nose with tissues, and maintain a 2-metre distance from others
  • avoid individuals in hospitals and long-term care centres, especially older adults and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems
  • avoid having visitors to your home
  • cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing and sneezing
  • have supplies delivered to your home instead of running errands
    • supplies should be dropped off outside to ensure a 2-metre distance

Being Prepared:

It is important to know how you can prepare in case you or a family member become ill.

Self-isolate vs. self-monitor

There is a difference between advice to self-isolate and advice to self-monitor.

You should self-isolate if:

  • you have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • local public health has identified you as a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19

If you have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 or identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you may be asked to self-monitor.

This means:

  • monitor yourself for symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing

If symptoms develop:

  • stay home
  • limit contact with others
  • contact local public health, and follow their instructions

Should we wear masks?

If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask when you are not ill may give a false sense of security. There is a potential risk of infection with improper mask use and disposal. They also need to be changed frequently.

However, your health care provider may recommend you wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 while you are seeking or waiting for care. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading you when you cough or sneeze.

Where can I learn more about 2019 COVID-19?

You can visit for more information, including frequently asked questions about the virus and the Government of Canada’s actions. You can also contact the Government of Canada’s information line at 1-833-784-4397.