P.E.I. opening COVID-19 testing clinics, information hotline

P.E.I. will open its first clinic for COVID-19 testing in Charlottetown Wednesday, Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison announced on Island Morning.

One clinic in Charlottetown with a second clinic to be opened in Summerside Thursday

Handwashing remains the best protection for everyone, says Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

P.E.I. opened its first clinic for COVID-19 testing in Charlottetown Wednesday.

A second clinic will be opened in Summerside Thursday, said Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison. To access the clinic, Islanders should call 811. They will be assessed on the phone for whether they need to be tested.

"Anyone who has returned from travel within the last 14 days and has symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, they should be tested," said Morrison.

Islanders needing a test will get a call from the clinic within 24 hours arranging an appointment, she said. Morrison emphasized that this service is for people with mild symptoms, which is the majority of cases for COVID-19.

"Of course, if you have serious symptoms you should go to the hospital. If you're having distress or chest pain or really short of breath then the testing clinic is not the place for you to go," she said.

There have been no cases of COVID-19 confirmed on P.E.I. The province has so far had only 10 people tested, but Morrison anticipates that number will rise quickly with the opening of the clinics.

A new provincial information line has been also been set up to answers questions about the coronavirus. The number, 1-800-958-6400, will take recorded messages, and someone from the chief public health office will return your call within 24 hours. 

Handwashing is key

Morrison said handwashing remains the best defence against the illness.

"The big thing is when you touch anything — surfaces, doorknobs — it's really important to wash your hands before you start touching your face," she said.

"If you handle something, wash your hands really well for 20 seconds with warm water and soap, and if you don't have that hand sanitizer is an alternative … the virus can live for hours, up to a couple of days on surfaces."

Social contact is important, said Morrison, and if you are feeling healthy you shouldn't be avoiding it. That means you can go to church, to school and to work, but be aware of what your hands are doing and wash them after shaking hands or touching a public surface.

"It's important to have good contact with people," she said.

Morrison noted gloves can provide some protection, but can become contaminated themselves, and then contaminate your hands when you take them off. You will still need to wash your hands when you get home.

Masks are not recommended for healthy people, she said. There is evidence that people wearing masks touch their faces more often, increasing the chance of infection. Sick people can reduce the spread of infection by wearing a surgical mask if they need to go out for a medical appointment or other reason.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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With files from Island Morning