Skip to main content

Common Questions

Find answers to some of the most common questions about COVID-19.

What you need to know

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The disease caused by this new coronavirus has been named COVID-19. While many of the characteristics of COVID-19 are still unknown, mild to severe illness has been reported for confirmed cases.

B.C. has declared a state of emergency and a public health emergency. Find the latest information about confirmed cases in B.C. on our website.

‎In B.C., we all must follow Provincial Health Officer (PHO) orders. In a Provincial State of Emergency, the PHO can make orders as needed. 

B.C.’s COVID-19 pandemic response plans include a wide range of planning and preparedness actions to help individuals, local governments, health-sector organizations and businesses respond to a pandemic. Learn more about  B.C.’s  response and supports


Talk to a Service BC agent about non-health related information and services between 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Inquiries related to travel, pets, food safety, prevention and risks, and more.
  • Text: 1-604-630-0300
  • Call: 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319)
  • Call International: 1-604-412-0957
The COVID-19 self-assessment tool, developed with the BC Ministry of Health, will help determine whether you may need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else.
For information on current WorkSafeBC Information for employers and workers go to WorkSafeBC.
If you get sick when you are travelling and staying in a hotel, let the hotel staff know so they can help you.

Most major tourist hotels have in-house doctors who can provide medical care. Hotels can also arrange appointments with local physicians.

If you have travel insurance, contact the local number you may have been given or the assistance centre in Canada and ask for a referral.

If you need urgent care, the best option is often the nearest hospital. In some countries, ambulances may not be common. Use whatever form of transportation you have to get to a hospital.

Protective measures against coronavirus

In addition to physical distancing, the most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. To help reduce your risk of infection:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using soap and water is the single most effective and preferred way of reducing the spread of infection.
  • If a sink is not available, alcohol based hand rubs (ABHR) can be used to clean your hands as long as they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, use a wipe and then ABHR to effectively clean them.
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc.
  • Facemasks are not recommended or required for people who are not sick and are not healthcare workers.
If you are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick and avoid close contact with others in your home if possible.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands.
  • Use the self-check to help determine if you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.
Plan ahead and take time to consider what you will do if you or a family member becomes sick and needs care. Have supplies on hand so you do not need to leave your home if you become ill. Think about:
  • What food and household supplies you need for you and your family
  • What medicines you need, including renewing and refilling prescriptions ahead of time
  • Discuss your plans with your family, friends and neighbors, and set up a system to check in on each other by phone, email or text during times of need.
  • Learn more about being prepared from Government of Canada.

‎Physical distancing is limiting close contact with other people to slow the spread of an infectious disease. An example of physical distancing is keeping about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed apart from others. Physical distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak. Even though we are not sick, we need to make changes to our everyday routines to stop the spread of germs between people.

There are many ways to practice physical distancing:  
  • Stay home as much as possible 
  • Use technology to keep in touch with friends and family 
  • Host virtual play dates for your kids 
  • Use food delivery services or online shopping
  • Exercise at home or outside alone
  • Work from home and conduct virtual meetings
In public
  • Keep about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed apart when possible
  • Keep your hands at your sides
  • Greet others with a wave instead of a handshake, a kiss or a hug
  • Shop or take public transportation during off-peak hours when possible
  • Avoid crowded places and all in-person gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged.
  • Limit contact with people at higher risk of getting sick (e.g. older adults and those in poor health).
At this time, all in-person gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged. The Provincial Health Officer encourages everyone to practice physical distancing to limit transmission of COVID-19. These efforts are not forever but are important for now. 

On March 16th, by the Order of the Provincial Health Officer, all event organizers are ordered to limit all public gatherings larger than 50 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings or other similar events.
 

At this time in B.C., we are all encouraged to stay home as much as possible. If you do leave your home to go shopping, take public transit or go to work, use common sense approaches to prevent infection and transmission:
  • Wash your hands often  and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands 
  • Try to use public transit or go to stores at off peak times
  • Do not go shopping, take public transit or go to work if you are sick
  • If you have to cough or sneeze, make sure you sneeze or cough into a tissue or the crook of your arm (elbow) and then wash your hands.
Shopping
  • Many malls, shops and stores are limiting their hours or closing their operations entirely in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in B.C. 
  • Consider only shopping once per week for essential supplies and use food delivery services or online shopping where available. 
  • Avoid crowded places and if a store is busy, consider going somewhere else.
  • If you are older or have health conditions, consider asking your family, friends and neighbors to help you get the supplies you need. 

Incoming travellers are screened at all borders – land, sea and air. As of March 25, 2020, by Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act it is mandatory for any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. There are some individuals who are exempt from this order to provide essential services. Spot checks will be conducted by the Government of Canada to verify compliance.

How it spreads


‎Coronavirus is spread from an infected person through:

  • Droplets spread when a person coughs or sneezes
  • It can be spread by touch if a person has used their hands to cover their mouth or nose when they cough or sneeze.
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Droplet Contact: Some diseases can be transferred by large infected droplets contacting surfaces of the eye, nose, or mouth. For example, large droplets that may be visible to the naked eye are generated when a person sneezes or coughs. These droplets typically spread only one to two metres and are too large to float in the air (i.e. airborne) and quickly fall to the ground. Influenza and SARS are two examples of diseases capable of being transmitted from droplet contact. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus can also be transmitted in this way.

Airborne transmission: This occurs when much smaller evaporated droplets or dust particles containing the microorganism float in the air for long periods of time. Transmission occurs when others breathe the microorganism into their throat or lungs. Examples of diseases capable of airborne transmission include measles, chickenpox and tuberculosis. Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission.
There is still a lot we don't know about COVID-19 and there are studies underway to better understand it.

There have been a few instances of transmission before the person became sick or the symptoms were so mild that the person did not know they were sick. Those are exceptions as most people became ill from being in close contact with someone who showed symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, therefore transmitting the virus through droplets. This is why B.C. health officials are focused on putting protection around people who are ill and showing symptoms, in order to decrease the spread to others.
 The risk of COVID-19 transmission by cash and documents is low and is expected to be similar to other common surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails. 
 
It is safe to handle cash and documents. However, it would be advisable to wash your hands frequently, and always before eating, after using the washroom, and before touching your face. 
 
Refusing cash could put an undue burden on people who depend on cash as a means of payment. 

Prevention

  • If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19. It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves.
  • Wearing a mask when not ill may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask).
  • There is a potential risk of infection with incorrect mask use, placement and when putting it on or taking it off
  • Masks also need to be changed frequently.‎
 
There are groups that should wear a face mask; including people who are sick and healthcare workers.
  • People who are sick. If you are sick, try to stay away from others. If you are around other people, a face mask (surgical or procedure mask) should be worn to help stop the spread of germs. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading you when you cough or sneeze.
  • Healthcare workers, first responders etc. Depending on where they work, healthcare workers may use personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide a barrier against to infectious diseases like COVID-19. Examples of PPE include masks, facial protection (i.e., masks and eye protection, face shields or masks with visor attachment) or respirators, gowns and gloves. During healthcare procedures in which aerosol sprays may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), healthcare workers wear specialized masks.

 
Facemasks are not recommended or required for people who are not sick and are not healthcare workers.

Any mask, no matter how efficient at filtration or how good the seal, will have minimal effect if it is not used together with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing.

The use of a homemade mask should only be used as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals. 
It is mandatory that anyone arriving in British Columbia from outside of Canada self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days upon their arrival. Returning travellers that develop respiratory symptoms are also required to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days after the onset of symptoms, or when the symptoms resolve, whichever is later. 

Example 1: Respiratory symptoms appear five days after returning to Canada. Self-isolate for 10 additional days for a total of 15 days. 

Example 2: Respiratory symptoms appear two days after returning to Canada. Self-isolate for 10 additional days for a total of 12 days.


People who have self-isolated can return to normal activities after 14 days if they have not developed any symptoms. 

Self-monitoring means you should be monitoring your health and the health of your children for symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Individuals who are self-monitoring are allowed to attend work and school and take part in regular activities.

For more information about self-monitoring, go to our Self-isolation page.
Self-isolation means avoiding situations where you could infect other people. This can help prevent the spread of infections. Self-isolation lowers the chance of spreading the illness to other people. When you are exposed to an illness, there is the time between exposure and when you start to feel sick. This is called an incubation period. There is a small chance you can spread germs in the days before you feel sick. People at high-risk of having been exposed to the illness are asked to self-isolate.

Plan ahead and prepare for what you will do if you or a family member becomes sick and needs care.

‎A number of groups are being asked to self-isolate. Learn more on our Self-isolation page.


  1. As of March 25, 2020, by Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act it is mandatory for any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. There are some individuals who are exempt from this order to provide essential services.
     --Spot checks will be conducted by the Government of Canada to verify compliance.
  2.  Those who are identified as a close contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19  
  3. Those who are a confirmed case of COVID-19
      --The second and third groups are monitored by Public Health, both their health and their activities. If people do not voluntarily self-isolate, Public Health can use legal powers under B.C.’s Public Health Act to ensure that self-isolation occurs.
At this time, international travellers, close contacts of a COVID-19 case or a COVID-19 case are all required to self-isolate. All of these groups will have been told to self-isolate either by Canadian Border Services or Public Health. Self-isolation is required under either the Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act  or B.C.’s Public Health Act.

At this time, all of us have a role to play to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk for vulnerable populations in our communities. Ways we can all reduce our risk of COVID-19 are to stay at home as much as possible and stay at home if you are sick. If going out in public, in addition to physical distancing, the most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

Symptoms

Common symptoms for COVID-19 are:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
For more information, visit our Symptoms page. 
 

There is no current evidence that ibuprofen makes COVID-19 worse. 
  • Ibuprofen is part of a group of medicines called NSAIDs and includes brand names like Advil and Motrin.
  • These medicines help with pain, fever or inflammation. 
  • Acetaminophen, which includes brand names like Tylenol, also helps with fever.
  • If you take ibuprofen to treat another condition, you should continue taking it. 
  • To treat symptoms like fever, we recommend first using acetaminophen. If it isn’t available, you can use ibuprofen as an alternative.
At this time, the available information suggests the incubation period is up to 14 days. The incubation period is the time from when a person is first exposed until symptoms appear.

What to do if you are sick

Use the self-assessment tool to see if you need testing: https://covid19.thrive.health/

If you have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or sneezing, avoid contact with others and self-isolate at home for at least 10 days.  While at home, take care of yourself by drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest. After 10 days, if your temperature is normal and you feel better, you can return to your routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days.

If your symptoms worsen, for example you have mild shortness of breath, contact your health care provider or HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) at any time. If you are going to visit your health care provider, call them ahead of time so they can arrange for you to be assessed safely. Wear a mask in order to protect others.


If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words) or chest pain, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

At this time we are asking patients to avoid going to the emergency department for COVID-19 testing.

If you feel that you might have COVID-19, please use the self-assessment tool to see if you need testing: https://covid19.thrive.health/.

If you are experiencing respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or sneezing, self-isolate at home for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms.  While at home, take care of yourself by drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest. After 10 days, if your temperature is normal and you feel better, you can return to your routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days.

If your symptoms worsen, for example you have mild shortness of breath, contact your health care provider or HealthLinkBC (8-1-1). If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words) or chest pain, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Clean and disinfect common areas once a day. Each day, clean places and surfaces in the room(s) that you are staying in. Regular cleaning products are fine for this. Then disinfect (kill germs) by mixing 1/50 solution of bleach and water (e.g. approximately 20 ml bleach per litre of water or 2 1/2 ounces per gallon) and applying it to areas that are touched often such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. It is especially important to use bleach to disinfect if you are sharing any common areas (such as a bathroom) with others or if others will be entering the room(s) where you are staying.

‎‎

Testing

Not everyone will require testing. If you have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or are a returning traveller and isolating at home, you do not require a test.

 

To help determine whether you require a test, use the BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


If you develop symptoms, it is important you stay home and self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days after onset of symptoms. Only a health care professional can determine if you need a test. Call your health care provider or 8-1-1 to assess if you need testing. If your symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words) or chest pain, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

 

A healthcare provider will let you know if you need testing and need to self-isolate. Depending on where you live in B.C. and the health care services in your area, safe testing may be available at different health care settings, including your doctor’s office, walk-in-clinic or urgent care centre. 

 

Please call ahead before you go to any health care setting for assessment and testing. Calling ahead before you go ensures that the clinic is prepared to test you and keeps the clinic’s staff and other visitors safe. If you are not able to get tested by your doctor or a walk-in-clinic, then another place to get tested may be your local Urgent and Primary Care Centres (UPCC). Find a UPCC near you on the HealthLinkBC.

 

‎Throughout B.C., there are labs running tests seven days a week to get test results back as soon as possible. Labs process samples from all testing locations. Usually there are test results within 96 hours, but as the number of people testing increases, the wait for test results may become longer. Test results may be available for sooner for those at higher risk of COVID-19. For example, those with severe illness. 


My ehealth

COVID-19 test results are also now available electronically through my ehealth. For more information about this service, go to our Testing page. 

 

It is important to stay at home and avoid contact with others (self-isolate) after your test. On the BCCDC website you can find information on how to self-isolate, continue monitoring your symptoms and what to do if you start to feel worse or need medical care.

 
The BCCDC COVID-19 Negative Results line is staffed from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, seven days a week. It may be easier to get through to someone on the line in the afternoon when the call volume is generally lower.

Please note that the time until test results are available may vary depending on testing location. 

If someone tests positive, public health will contact them. However, while you wait for your test result, you should follow the advice of your doctor or testing provider to self-isolate.

Please note: Test results are not available in-person at the BCCDC. Additionally BCCDC is only able to provide verbal results through the COVID-19 Negative Results line. Hard copies of results are not available.


My ehealth

COVID-19 test results are also now available electronically through my ehealth. For more information about this service, go to our Testing page. 

 

Treatment

When a disease is new, there is no vaccine until one is developed. It can take many years to develop a new vaccine.

 
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by COVID-19. Many of the symptoms can be managed with home treatment such as drinking plenty of fluids, rest and using a humidifier or hot shower to ease a cough or sore throat. Most people recover from coronaviruses on their own. For people with more serious illness supportive care in or out of hospital may be needed.

For more information on what you can do if you have symptoms, see:

No, the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.

 

COVID-19 testing is done using samples collected by a nasopharyngeal swab (NP) or throat swab. The BCCDC Public Health Laboratory (PHL) has developed laboratory guidance for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. If your health care provider thinks you may have the new coronavirus, they will arrange for testing.

 

School, daycare and workplaces

As of March 17, 2020, B.C. will be suspending K-12 classes. Teachers and schools will be developing plans for continuing instruction, outside of the classroom.
It is mandatory that anyone arriving in British Columbia from outside of Canada self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days upon their arrival. Returning travellers that develop respiratory symptoms are also required to self-isolate for a period 10 days after the onset of symptoms, whenever they occur. 
It is mandatory that anyone arriving in British Columbia from outside of Canada self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days upon their arrival. Returning travellers that develop respiratory symptoms are also required to self-isolate for a period 10 days after the onset of symptoms, whenever they occur. 

WorkSafeBC has further information for employers and workers on their website.

As an employer, you can actively encourage all employees to practice respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene at your worksite, and advise employees to stay home when they are sick.

We 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.

 

SOURCE: Common Questions ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Centre for Disease Control. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2020 Provincial Health Services Authority.