Day: March 18, 2020

Coronavirus in Canada: how to get tested, what the symptoms are, where to get help

NOTE: This post is being updated frequently with the most recent information from official federal and provincial sources. Because events are changing quickly, we are drawing not only from government websites but also Twitter feeds, press conferences and other sources. Last update was Tuesday, March 17 at 1 p.m.

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 of the World Health Organization (WHO), which published a preliminary report on the outbreak in China. Sources are noted throughout.

As each province and territory has its own health terminology—Telehealth Ontario vs. Health Link 811 in Alberta, for example—much of the wording is taken directly from their sites to avoid confusion.

An important note: this information is frequently revised and updated by authorities. This post, too, is being updated regularly, but we urge readers to click on the links, especially the official sites, for the latest.

Also, wash your hands with soap. Often.

To skip directly to information and instructions for your home province on this post, follow the applicable link below:

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories



Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus while the average is 5-6 days after infection (PHAC and WHO)

According to a World Health Organization report from the end of February on COVID-19 in China, symptoms in confirmed cases included:

  • Fever (88%)
  • Dry cough (68%)
  • Fatigue (38%)
  • Sputum production (33%)
  • Shortness of breath (19%)
  • Muscle or joint pain (15%)
  • Sore throat (14%)
  • Headache (14%)
  • Chills (11%)

The WHO report on COVID-19 in China found that:

  • 80% of patients experienced mild to moderate effects (fever, cough, maybe pneumonia—but not needing supplemental oxygen)
  • 14% suffered severe symptoms (requiring supplemental oxygen, including via a ventilator)
  • 1% were critical (respiratory failure, septic shock and/or organ dysfunction/failure)

Who is most vulnerable?

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:

  • Aged 65 and over
  • With compromised immune systems
  • With underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases including:
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • 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:

  • cardiovascular disease (13.2%)
  • diabetes (8.4%)
  • hypertension (8.4%)
  • chronic respiratory disease (8%)
  • cancer (7.6%)

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.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms

Contact a care provider in your area to get tested (province-by-province contact information below). Staff in some jurisdictions, especially large cities, may direct you to special assessment centres set up for COVID-19 testing. There are some basic caveats to observe, though, before and after you get tested, as the B.C. site explains:

  • If it becomes harder to breathe, you can’t drink anything or feel much worse than when you got tested, seek immediate medical care at an urgent-care clinic or emergency department. If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Call ahead before you get medical care. If leaving your home for care, call ahead and tell the clinic you are coming in and that you just had a COVID-19 test. By calling ahead, you help the clinic, hospital, lab, urgent care or doctor’s office prepare for your visit and stop the spread of germs. Remind each health care provider that is taking care of you that you are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
  • Self-isolate

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.

How have Canadians exposed to COVID-19 been affected?

As of March 17 at 10:30 a.m., there were 424 cases so far in Canada: B.C. (103), Alberta (74), Saskatchewan (2), Manitoba (7), Ontario (177), Quebec (50), New Brunswick (2), Prince Edward Island (1) and repatriated travellers (8), per the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):

  • 5 people have died of COVID-19
  • 13% of ill individuals were hospitalized
  • 31% were 60 years old or over
  • 74% were travellers and 6% were close contacts of those travellers

Federal government

Official site here.

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.


Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada. recommends:

  • Postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
  • practice social distancing
  • avoid large events and crowded spaces  with more than 50 people
  • keep a distance of two arms-length from others
  • if you must go out, avoid peak hours
  • if needed or possible, work from home.

The Government of Canada is advising travellers arriving in Canada from any international destination, via airport or land port of entry, to self-isolate for 14 days after your return.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, all travellers returning to Canada from Hubei province of ChinaIran or Italy are advised to:

  • Self-isolate: stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in their home, for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei province or Iran
  • Contact the local public health unit within 24 hours of arriving in Canada
  • Contact your provincial/territorial/local health authorities if you experience symptoms of COVID-19

Advice from provincial and territorial governments, and where to get information

Specific information regarding self-isolation and reporting varies by province, so here are the breakdowns, using the wording from their own websites. Please note that new information is causing their risk assessments to be re-evaluated.

British Columbia

Official site for HealthLink BC here and BC Centre for Disease Control here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here

Getting help: a) The province has created a dedicated phone service to provide British Columbians non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments. British Columbians can reach service representatives seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., by calling 1 888 COVID19. Information is available in more than 110 languages. b) contact your primary care provider, local public health office, or call 811 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC.


  • B.C. is prohibiting all public gatherings of more than 50 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings and other similar events.
  • The government is restricting visitors in long-term care to essential visits only. Essential visits include compassionate visits for end-of-life care and visits that support care plans for residents based on resident and family needs. For example: families who routinely visit to provide assistance with feeding or mobility.
  • Also, on the recommendation of the provincial health officer, the province has ordered all casinos to close until further notice to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Authorities are asking employers to excuse staff for sick leave without requiring a doctor’s note, if their employees are ill or required to self-isolate.

If you start having symptoms of COVID-19, you need to begin self-isolation:

  • Isolate yourself from others as quickly as possible
  • Call your health care professional or contact HealthLinkBC (8-1-1)
  • Describe your symptoms and travel history. They will provide advice on what you should do.

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Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here

Getting help: call Health Link 811 for instructions if any symptoms begin


The following mass gatherings should be cancelled:

  • Events with more than 50 attendees that involve international participants, critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations.
  • Large events with more than 250 attendees:
    • Includes: sporting events, conferences, schools and post-secondary institutions
    • Does not include: grocery stores, airports, shopping centres, libraries and casinos

Events that do not meet this criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation measures must be in place, such as providing sanitizer stations, enhanced cleaning protocols and distancing between attendees.

To prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, among seniors and other vulnerable groups:

  • Only essential visits to any continuing care or long-term care facility in Alberta are recommended.

Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow employees to take 14 days of paid, job-protected leave if they are:

  • required to self-isolate
  • sick or caring for a loved one with COVID-19

To be eligible, employees:

  • will not be required to have a medical note
  • do not need to have worked for an employer for 90 days


Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here

Getting help: If you have symptoms and recently traveled outside Canada or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19, stay home and call HealthLine 811 (204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257) for instructions.


  • All classes in Saskatchewan pre K-12 schools will be suspended indefinitely, effective March 20, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For the period of March 16 to March 19, pre K-12 classes will wind down.
  • No public events of more than 250 people take place. This does not include school, university, religious gatherings, work, or grocery shopping.
  • No events of more than 50 people with speakers or attendees who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days take place.
  • The Chief Medical Health Officer orders that visitors to long-term care homes, hospitals, personal care homes and group homes are restricted to essential visitors only.  Essential visitors means immediate family visiting for compassionate reasons.
  • SaskGaming will suspend operations and temporarily close Casinos Regina and Moose Jaw until further notice upon advice of public health officials on the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Call HealthLine 811 if you develop respiratory or flu-like symptoms.

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Official site here.

Getting help: call Health Links – Info Santé for advice on where to go to be assessed


Public health officials have advised suspending classes in Manitoba kindergarten to Grade 12 schools effective March 23 to April 10.  This is being done to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

Certain individuals should NOT visit acute care or long-term care facilities.  This includes those who have:
•    returned from international travel in the last 14 days;
•    been instructed to self-isolate for 14 days; or
•    have cold or flu-like symptoms, such as a cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, weakness or headache.

Effective immediately, only one visitor per patient at a time is allowed in acute care facilities, such as hospitals, across Manitoba.  This does not apply to parents of children in hospital.  Also, exceptions will be made at a manager’s discretion for special circumstances, such as visitors who require an escort or those going to see a patient nearing the end of their life.

Manitoba’s adult and youth correctional facilities continue to allow visitors, with restrictions in place to protect the health and safety of people in custody as well as staff.  Visits from family members will continue to be allowed but with no contact. Visits with legal counsel will continue with no changes. All centres have suspended all visits from volunteers and community agencies until further notice.

Manitoba patients are advised their surgery may be postponed if their surgeon has determined their procedure can be safely delayed for three months or longer without any significant effects on their health.

Public health officials continue to recommend social distancing measures for all Manitobans including:
•    cancelling or postponing any large-scale events (events with more than 250 attendees);
•    minimizing prolonged (more than 10 minutes), close (less than two metres) contact between individuals in public;
•    avoiding greetings that involve touching such as handshakes;
•    disinfecting frequently used surfaces;
•    following public health advice related to self-monitoring and self-isolation if you have travelled or have been exposed to someone ill with the virus; and
•    avoiding all non-essential travel, as well as crowded places and events.
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Official site for Ministry of Health here and Public Health Ontario here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here

Getting help: contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit


The Government of Ontario has declared an emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act

As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:

  • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
  • All public libraries;
  • All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
  • All licensed child-care centres;
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
  • Concert venues.

Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship.

These orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020, at which point they will be reassessed and considered for extension, unless this order is terminated earlier.

The Minister of Education has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19. This means Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020.

Travellers who have returned from Hubei province in China or from Iran should:

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Official site here.

Getting help: contact Info‑Santé 811


  • All daycare services (childcare centres, as well as subsidized, non-subsidized, family and non-regulated daycare centres) and institutions (elementary and secondary schools, vocational training and adult education centres, private schools, CEGEPs, colleges and universities) will be closed from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27. However, measures have been implemented to continue to offer emergency daycare services for children of health care and essential services personnel;
  • Non-essential visits are prohibited to hospitals, residential and long-term care centres, intermediate resources, family-type resources for the elderly and vulnerable adults and private seniors’ homes throughout Québec’s territory
  • A 14-day isolation is mandatory for all public employees, including health workers, teachers and daycare workers, returning from travel outside the country, including the United States.
  • There is a ban on all indoor gatherings of more than 250 people for a period of 30 days starting on March 12.
  • The government recommends cancelling all travel that is not essential.

The Gouvernement du Québec is ordering until March 30, 2020 the closing of the following businesses and public spaces:

  • libraries;
  • museums;
  • theatres;
  • performance spaces;
  • swimming pools, spas, saunas and water parks;
  • recreational sites such as ski resorts, amusement parks, trampoline centres, and so on;
  • cinemas and arcades;
  • training centres and dance, spinning, zumba and yoga centres;
  • arenas;
  • indoor soccer centres;
  • zoos;
  • aquariums;
  • bars et discotheques;
  • restaurants that offer buffets;
  • sugar shacks;
  • all other facilities with similar vocations.
  • The Gouvernement du Québec is asking owners to limit the number of customers to 50% of the rooms’ capacity, that is, one table in two. However, buffet-style restaurants and sugar shacks must close temporarily.

Take-out orders, deliveries and drive-through services are permitted.

The government has asked Revenu Québec to apply flexibility measures for individuals and businesses in Québec during income tax filing season.

  • The deadline for producing and filing income tax return is postponed to June 1, 2020.
  • For individuals and individuals in business, the deadline for applying balances due related to income tax returns for the 2019 taxation year is postponed to July 31, 2020.
  • For those who must pay tax instalments, the payment of the June 15, 2020 tax instalment is suspended until July 31, 2020. The date and terms of payment of this amount will be announced shortly. Individuals will have a reasonable period of time to pay the amount due.

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New Brunswick

Official site: here.

Getting help: contact Tele-Care 811 (If they require an in-person assessment, a referral will be provided to the Community Assessment Centre in their area. Note: those centres are not walk-in clinics.)


Schools are closed for two weeks, effective Monday, March 16.

Early learning and child-care facilities, including those located in schools, are not being closed. The directive continues to be that all individuals who have travelled internationally on or after March 9 still applies. Those travellers are to avoid early learning and child-care centres for a period of 14 days.

The following businesses and public spaces be closed effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, until further notice:

  • libraries;
  • museums;
  • theatres;
  • performance spaces;
  • swimming pools, spas, saunas and water parks;
  • recreational sites such as ski resorts, amusement parks, trampoline centres, etc.;
  • cinemas and arcades;
  • training centres and dance, spinning, zumba and yoga centres;
  • arenas;
  • indoor soccer centres;
  • zoos;
  • aquariums;
  • bars and discotheques;
  • restaurants that offer buffets;
  • sugar bush operations open to the public.
  • Public Health is also asking restaurant owners to limit the number of customers to 50 per cent of the capacity of their dining areas. Take-out orders, deliveries and drive-through services are permitted.

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends that any non-essential gathering of 150 or more people be cancelled or postponed until officials are able to better determine the risk to the population.

If you start having symptoms (headache, congestion, achiness, feeling unwell) or your symptoms get worse (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) isolate yourself from others as quickly as possible. Immediately call Tele-Care 811.  

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Nova Scotia

Official site: here.

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)


Prevention measures for Nova Scotians are in effect immediately under the authority of the Health Protection Act and include:

  • long-term care facilities closed to visitors effectively immediately
  • public schools closed for two weeks following March Break (weeks of March 23 and March 30) and then will be reassessed
  • regulated child care centres closed March 17 to April 3 and then will be reassessed
  • March break camps cancelled
  • casinos in Halifax and Sydney are closed as of 12 a.m. March 16 and bar owners can no longer operating VLTs
  • organizations and businesses must practise social distancing of two metres or six feet and keep gatherings below 150 or much smaller if possible. This applies to restaurants, bars, movie theatres and other gathering spots

Public sector employees who travel outside of Canada, including the United States, will be required to self-isolate upon their return.
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Prince Edward Island

Official site: here.

Getting help: Call 811 for instructions


The province has declared a state of public-health emergency to ensure the province is taking all appropriate actions to prepare and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

  • All library programs and events Island-wide have been cancelled in an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Effective March 17, 2020, all public licensed child care centres will be closed until further notice and all public schools will be closed for two weeks following March Break (March 23 to April 3) and will be reassessed.
  • All public and private long-term care and community care facilities will be restricting visitors.
  • Additional measures include the immediate closure of Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park at Brookvale, and all provincially run visitor information centres.

If you have not been travelling recently but are still concerned about coronavirus, please read the following questions carefully:

  1. In the past 14 days, have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus?
  2. In the past 14 days, have you been in close contact with a person with fever or acute respiratory illness (new or worsening cough or difficulty breathing) who has been outside of Canada within 14 days prior to becoming ill?

If the answer is yes to either question, stay at home and call 811 for further assessment.
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Newfoundland and Labrador

Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here

Getting help: follow-up with your health care provider or call the NL Healthline at 811


  • All schools are to be closed as of the end of day of March 16. As well, child-care facilities are being closed.
  • As of Saturday, all public service employees returning from out-of-province travel must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • There are restrictions on visiting long-term care facilities.

If you are having symptoms or had exposure to someone with COVID-19: Contact 811 for further direction.

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Official site here.

Getting help: phone 811 or your health provider


Individuals who have travelled outside of Yukon in the last 14 days, or who are feeling sick, are banned from visiting hospitals.

Long-term care facilities are closed to visitors and volunteers, unless family members are at the end of life or gravely ill regardless of travel.

These restrictions are accompanied by several others including the following:

  • Mass gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, including at houses of worship.
  • Parents or caregivers who are able to keep their children home from spring break day camps, or daycare, are requested to do so. Fewer children in camps or daycares will help to limit any spread.
  • People who can work from home are requested to do so. Employers are asked to look for ways to support employees to work from home where possible.

Persons who are returning from travel and have any cough or sensation of fever, even mild, should consider themselves infectious and be extra cautious with their self-isolation and distancing from those at highest risk of severe infection.  In that case please self-isolate and call YCDC at 867-667-8323 or 1-800-661-1408 ext. 8323.

People returning from the specific province of Hubei in China (not other parts of China), Iran and Italy should:

  • self-isolate for 14 days after departing Hubei, Iran or Italy;
  • contact Yukon Communicable Disease Control (YCDC) at 667-8323 or 1-800-661-0408 (ext. 8323) for ongoing support or any questions or concerns.

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Northwest Territories

Official site here.

Getting help: tell your health care provider if you have symptoms


  • Chief Public Health Officer is recommending that NWT residents avoid all non-essential travel outside of the Northwest Territories.
  • All 15 public libraries located within schools are closed as of March 16 and will remain closed for the duration of school closures (until April 14, 2020)
  • Effective Monday, March 16 2020, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre will be closed to the public until further notice. Access to the NWT Archives will remain available by request.
  • All JK-12 classes have been cancelled until April 14, 2020. The Minister of Education, Culture, and Employment and the Chief Public Health Officer are meeting with education authorities to discuss all implications of this cancellation.
  • GNWT services to the public: Due to the current situation with COVID-19, any visitors who appear to have flu-like symptoms or have been in contact with someone with symptoms will be turned away and asked to call in instead.
  • A number of GNWT events may be postponed or cancelled. Please reach out to the regional office in your area to confirm whether the event you are interested in is proceeding.
  • GNWT employees who have travelled internationally are directed not to return to work until they have been symptom free for 14 days.

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Official site here.

Getting help: call your local health centre


Nunavut’s chief public health officer is recommending the temporary closure of all schools and daycares in Nunavut to limit any potential spread of COVID-19. These closures are effective starting Tuesday, March 17 for a three weeks.

If you become ill:

If you develop symptoms and have travelled to a region with known cases of COVID-19 occurring in the community or have been in contact with someone who has:

  • stay at home and avoid contact with others
  • follow up with your health care professional

If you develop fever, cough or difficulty breathing in the next 14 days, call your health care provider or local public health authority and advise them of possible contact with COVID-19.

If you are ill and must visit a health care professional, call ahead or tell them when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and if you have travelled.

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