News

Are your groceries and food deliveries safe? Your daily COVID-19 questions answered

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can.

From grocery shopping to physical distancing with roommates, here's what you’re asking us today

Readers want to know if they should disinfect delivered groceries. (Shutterstock / Atstock Productions)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on News Network.  

So far we've received hundreds of emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking, including a number of questions about food and groceries from Canadians concerned about contamination, including this question from Carol H. 

Do I need to wipe down surfaces on delivered items and groceries? What cleaning products should be used for each? How should I clean fresh fruits and vegetables?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, there are no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.

But a recent study suggests the virus can persist on surfaces, such as cardboard. 

Based on the results of this study, here's just how long the virus can last on various surfaces:

  • Plastic or stainless steel for two to three days.

  • Cardboard for 24 hours.

  • Copper for four hours.

However, the study found the amount of virus that is found on the surfaces might not be enough to get infected and further research is needed. 

As for packaged items from the grocery store, epidemiologist Dr. Rama Nair suggests rinsing them with soap and water if possible, or at least a disinfectant wipe approved for use against coronavirus. Nair adds that fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed as soon as they are brought into your home.

"We don't have enough data to know how long it can stay on the food; it will depend on many factors. Therefore, as a precaution it is better to wash ... since we know washing with soap and water destroys the virus," he said.

If you choose to disinfect your deliveries, use soap and water, and wash your hands after unpacking your items. For other options, read more here to help you decide what works best for you!

Read more about how to shop for groceries during a global pandemic here.

We are self-isolating as we returned to Canada last week. Are we able to go for a walk if we practise physical distancing?

A lot of questions from Canadians were about outdoor time, including this one from Bob and Dee F. who are self-isolating after travelling, but want to get outside for a little exercise. So what's OK? 

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says Canadians returning from other countries must take self-isolation seriously, instructing people to "rest in your house for 14 days, no exceptions." That means no walks, unless you have a big backyard with a fence.

While it might be frustrating, these guidelines are now mandatory for anyone who has been travelling outside Canada. 

CBC News put together tips about how to self-isolate at home.

Is COVID-19 harmful to either the mother or baby in pregnancy? Are pregnant women an at-risk population?

Jamie T. wonders whether pregnant women need to self-isolate to protect themselves. Based on early clinical trials, there is no evidence to suggest transmission of the virus from an infected mother to her fetus. While there have been reported cases of newborns with the virus, it's likely those were a result of intimate contact with an infected mother. 

CBC News Network Host Aarti Pole recently spoke with Dr. Jon Barrett, head of maternal fetal medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, who says that "pregnant women are not more at risk" than other members of the population. Though he adds, "we're getting new data all the time, so it could change."

However, there are currently no special precautions for expectant mothers outside of the guidelines for the general population. 

Women in their third trimester who are close to delivery should also consult with their health-care provider to get the latest information about their hospital's labour and delivery guidelines and protocol as those policies evolve.

Who qualifies for help with their rent or mortgage?

A number of Canadians want to know if there's help for homeowners and renters. Nazila S. writes, 'Who can apply for the $500 assistance for rent?" 

The federal government has not announced any money specifically for renters. But renters might qualify for other financial support being offered in some provinces, while homeowners can investigate mortgage deferral. Read more here to learn more.

Ontario says no one will be evicted from their home because of COVID-19. (David Donnelly/CBC)

British Columbia is offering up to $500 in rent relief. The province is also pledging to suspend evictions and freeze rent increases. 

Ontario is halting most evictions during the pandemic. Quebec's rental board has suspended eviction hearings

The six big banks are offering homeowners a mortgage deferral of up to six months, but you'll have to talk to your bank to sign up.  Canadians who have lost their jobs, because of the pandemic are more likely to qualify. 

However, look carefully at the terms of any deferral. Your mortgage interest will mount during the deferral and that means higher payments in future.

Edmonton mortgage broker Jason Scott explains how the deferral process works on CBC's Radio Active. You can find a lot more answers here

Self-isolating in a full house: How do I practise physical distancing with roommates? 

Paige S. lives in the basement, and another family lives upstairs, which can make physical distancing or self-isolation more complicated. 

CBC News explains measures you can take to protect yourself and your housemates. 

These include: 

  • Maintaining a distance of two metres while in the same room and wearing a mask if necessary.

  • Not sharing household items like dishes, drinking glasses and utensils.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently used surfaces.

  • Washing your hands frequently.

Read more here for tips about how to practise physical distancing with roommates or family. 

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

We're also answering your questions every night on The National. Last night your questions included whether cloth masks are a good idea for essential workers. Watch below:

Doctors answer your questions about the coronavirus in Canada, including whether cloth masks are a good idea for essential workers. 3:54

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.