Health·CBC Explains

How to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, more Canadians are being asked to self-isolate at home for two weeks at a time. CBC explains what that means.

More Canadians are being asked to self-isolate at home for 2 weeks at a time

Zeena Dotiwalla cleans a light switch at Yogaspace in Toronto on Wednesday. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that people in self-isolation clean frequently contacted surfaces at least once per day. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, more Canadians are being asked to to self-isolate at home — for two weeks at a time — if they are symptomatic, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, are returning from an area that's experiencing an outbreak, or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the illness.

CBC explains what that means.

Why are people told to self-isolate at home?

The majority of COVID-19 cases in Canada have been mild, health officials say. People who are only mildly ill are asked to isolate at home to ensure hospitals can maintain the capacity to treat and manage more severe cases, if required.

How are authorities ensuring these people aren't going out into the community? Is it an honour system?

Local public health units regularly check in with people who have confirmed cases to ensure they are abiding by guidelines for self-isolation. In addition, medical officers of health have statutory powers they can use to enforce self-isolation if they believe people are not following quarantine orders.

If someone is found to be non-compliant with any of the conditions for self-isolation at home, they could face significant fines and penalties under the Quarantine Act, a spokesperson with the federal Public Health Agency of Canada said.

Can they leave the premises?

People in self-isolation are asked to stay at home, unless absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care. They should arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at the door.

More people are being asked to self-isolate at home if they are symptomatic, have returned from an outbreak area, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or come in contact with someone who has. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

Can relatives, housemates stay in the home of someone in self-isolation?

Yes, however, health officials advise that any person in self-isolation should avoid contact with others — keeping a distance of at least two metres — and wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Officials also advise staying in separate rooms and using separate bathrooms if possible.

How about pets?

The Public Health Agency of Canada says there is currently no evidence to suggest that any animal native to Canada (wild, livestock or pets) harbours the virus that causes COVID-19, and animals in Canada don't pose a risk of infecting people with the virus.

Still, the agency recommends that, until more is known about human to animal transmission, patients infected with COVID-19 who also have a pet or other animal should avoid close contact with them. 

(CBC News)

What about the use of household items?

People in self-isolation are asked to avoid sharing household items, including dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding and other objects, PHAC says.

Any special guidelines for cleaning?

PHAC says that at least once daily, individuals in self-isolation should clean and disinfect surfaces they touch often, such as toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, light switches, phones and television remotes. Regular household disinfectants are fine.

Contaminated items that cannot be cleaned should be placed in a lined container and disposed of with other household waste.