What is Self-isolation?


Last updated: March 31, 2020. Please check back for updates.

Self-isolation is staying home to protect those around you – your family, friends, colleagues - from possibly getting COVID-19. Self-isolation is an effective measure of prevention. We are asking people to take simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, like you would with the seasonal flu virus. We know it may be a stressful time, but taking these measures will help protect you, your family, and the community from COVID-19 and other common infectious diseases. Self-isolation is different than physical distancing.  

Self-isolation is to take place when you are returning from international travel OR if you meet the case definition. Call the Health Unit at 1-800-563-2808 to be assessed. Note that not all people who are asked to self-isolate will be tested. 

If you are in self-isolation, as much as possible, you should limit your contact with people other than the family members/companions you travelled with. You should avoid having visitors to your home, but it is okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food and supplies.  

If you are in a home where the others who live with you haven’t travelled you should minimize close contact with them by avoiding situations where you have face-to-face contact closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes. The other household residents do not need to self-isolate provided these precautions are followed. 

You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, pillows or other items with other people in your home. After using these items, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water, place them in the dishwasher for cleaning or wash them in your washing machine. 

Staying at home may present its own challenges, but there are things you can do to make the 14 days easier. 

Before self-isolation  

  • Before you return to Canada, you need to plan ahead and think about what you need to be able to stay at home for the full 14 days. 

  • Visit our emergency kits page for information on what to purchase for your emergency kit.  

  • Talk to your employer, friends and family to ask for their help to access the things you will need in advance. 

  • Talk to your employer to see if you can work from home during this time. 

  • Think about and plan how you can get access to food and other supplies such as medications. 

While in self-isolation  

  • If you need supplies while you are staying at home, ask friends or family to drop off anything you need or you can order supplies online. Make sure any deliveries are left outside your home for you to collect. 

  • You can keep in touch with friends and family over the phone, through or other means of contact. 

  • Physical exercise is good for your well being. Look for online classes or courses to help you take light exercise in your home. 

  • Don’t use public transport, taxis or similar transport methods during your 14 day period. You can use your own transport means (car, bike, etc.) whenever you wish. 

  • You can live with others during your 14 days, but you need to avoid close contact with them, staying at least 2 metres away. This also means don’t share beds, linen or food. 

  • Aim to stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened. Try to keep the window open as much as possible to enable ventilation and airflow as this will help to keep clean air moving through your room. 

  • Enjoy your backyard or outdoor space.  

  • Read or re-read a book. Taking time for yourself can help you enjoy your 14 days. 

  • Make crafts and plan activities with your children while in isolation. This is a great time to connect with your child, help them work through their emotions, and let your child play. Here are some great tips to help you and example activities: 
    • Teach kids why it’s important to wash their hands  

    • Bake together 

    • Have a tea party where everyone gets dressed up  

    • Build a fort out of couch cushions, furniture and blankets  

    • With the warmer weather coming take some time to play in the backyard or draw on the driveway with chalk  

    • While wearing a helmet ride your bike down the street 

    • Work on a family puzzle  

    • Write a letter to your friends or family and encourage them to write back 

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