Information on self-isolation and returning to work after self-isolation and/or COVID-19 diagnosis.
What is self-isolation (self-quarantine)?
People who have COVID-19 or are likely to have it (because of a high-risk exposure) are asked to self-isolate. Self-isolation means separating yourself from others, including staying at home, to avoid situations where you could transmit COVID-19 to other people. The goal of self-isolation is to lower the chance of transmitting the virus to others, including to your loved ones.
What is self monitoring?
Self-monitoring means monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or feeling unwell. You will be asked to self-monitor for symptoms if you were recently exposed to COVID-19.
To self-monitor, you should:
- Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool.
- As much as possible, avoid the use of fever reducing medications (e.g., acetaminophen, ibuprofen), because these medications may mask early symptoms of COVID-19. If these must be taken, please let your healthcare provider know.
- If you develop symptoms, take a COVID-19 test.
When to seek medical care
- If you have worsening symptoms, call 8-1-1, your family doctor, an Urgent and Primary Care Centre or the Fraser Health Virtual Care team at 1-800-314-0999 between 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. seven days a week.
- If you develop symptoms that are not associated with COVID-19, it is important that you still follow-up with medical care.
- Call 9-1-1 if at any time you are feeling very unwell and are worried this might be an emergency (e.g. severe difficulty breathing or chest pain).
Who needs to self-isolate, for how long?
Self-isolation is recommended for people for many different reasons. Some reasons may include:
- Having a current COVID-19 diagnosis
- Waiting for COVID-19 test results
- Being a close contact to a person with COVID-19
- Returning from travel from outside Canada
In general, you should stay home if you feel unwell, even if you do not have COVID-19. This will help prevent the transmission of illnesses, including COVID-19, to others.
Anyone with new onset symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild
If you feel unwell, it may not be COVID-19 and may be a common cold or influenza. Regardless, if you have cold and/or flu-like symptoms, even if mild, you must self-isolate right away and get tested.
If you are unsure whether to seek medical care or get tested:
People diagnosed with COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID-19, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days starting from when your symptoms began (first felt sick),
AND until your fever is gone without the use of anti-fever medications
AND until symptoms resolve (with exception of an isolated cough).
For example, if after 10 days you still have a fever, runny nose or feel tired, continue to self-isolate until your symptoms go away. After symptoms resolve, return to regular physical distancing.
Coughing may continue for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for longer.
People who are waiting for COVID-19 test results
While waiting for your test results, you need to self-isolate, and monitor yourself daily for symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath using the BC self-assessment tool.
If you test negative for COVID-19 and you are self-isolating as a close contact to a person infected with COVID-19, you must continue to self-isolate for the full 14 days from when you were last exposed or as advised by public health.
If you test negative for COVID-19 and have symptoms, and are not a close contact to a person infected with COVID-19, continue to self-isolate until you feel better and no longer have a fever without the use of fever reducing medication.
Seek medical advice if your symptoms get worse.
If you are a traveler returning to Canada, you must self-isolate for the full 14 days from the day you returned to Canada, even with a negative test.
Close contacts of people with confirmed COVID-19 cases, including household contacts
If you are a close contact to a person who has COVID-19, including members living in the same household, you must self-isolate for 14 days from your last exposure to the person infected with COVID-19.
For household contacts, if you are not able to isolate from the person infected with COVID-19, self-isolation can end 14 days after the person with confirmed COVID-19 has finished their isolation. This period could be extended if you develop symptoms or if another person in your household tests positive while you are already self-isolating.
If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, even with no symptoms, you should get tested seven days after exposure. Public Health will also provide recommendations on when to get tested when they speak with you.
If you live with or are caring for someone who is a close contact of a person with COVID-19, you aren't required to self-isolate, but you should take steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. People who are close contacts have a much greater chance of developing COVID-19. Close contacts can become infectious and spread COVID-19 to you and people around them, even if they don’t show symptoms.
If the person who is a close contact develops symptoms, they should get tested. While awaiting their results, you must self-isolate as well, as you may have been infected.
Travelers returning to Canada
Returning international travelers are required by law under the Federal Quarantine Act to self-quarantine for 14 days even if you don't have symptoms, and complete the federal ArriveCAN application. During your quarantine you must follow the instructions provided by the Government of Canada.
If you develop symptoms and test positive for COVID-19 you must self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset and complete the full 14 days of quarantine, which ever is longer.
If you are exposed to another person who is also under the quarantine order or tests positive for COVID-19, you need to restart counting the 14 days from the date you were last exposed.
If you don’t develop symptoms and are not exposed to someone else who does have symptoms or a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, your quarantine can end 14 days after you arrived in Canada.
Translated posters for travellers arriving in Canada
How do I self-isolate?
Stay home the whole time you self-isolate.
- Do not go to work, school, or public areas including grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, gyms or places of worship while you are self-isolating.
- Avoid all contact with people who are at more risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.
- You can exercise outside as long as you stay 2 metres away from others
- Walk or drive yourself to medical appointments or COVID-19 testing sites. If someone else must drive you, for example if you take taxi or rideshare, wear a mask, sit in the back seat farthest away from the driver and keep windows rolled down. If you must take public transit, wear a mask and keep at least 2 meters between yourself and others.
Do not have non-essential visitors to your home.
- Try to arrange for food and essential items to be delivered and dropped off at your door by friends or family, or use a delivery service.
- Let any home health care providers know that you are self-isolating so that they can take extra precautions to keep themselves healthy.
Avoid face-to-face contact with others, including those who live in your home.
- Stay, sleep and eat in a separate room away from other people in your home.
- Use a separate bathroom if you have one. If you must share a bathroom, ensure it is thoroughly disinfected before someone else uses it and keep the bathroom well ventilated.
- If possible, have other people who live in your home stay somewhere else, especially if they have a chronic health condition or are older.
- Try not share items such as dishes, remote controls or electronic items with others in your home. If you must share, these items need to be disinfected before someone else uses them.
- High touch, shared surfaces such as door handles, faucets and light switches should be disinfected regularly.
If you must be in the same room as someone else, wear a mask and keep a 2- meter distance between yourself and others
- Avoid being in the same room as someone who is not infected with COVID-19.
- Other people should also wear a mask and stay 2 metres away when they are in the same room as you.
- Make sure that shared rooms have good airflow (for example, open windows for the entire time you are in a shared space).
Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hand.
- Throw used tissues in a lined wastebasket, and wash your hands. Lining the wastebasket with a plastic bag makes waste disposal easier and safer. Wash your hands after emptying the wastebasket.
Practice frequent hand hygiene
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Dry your hands with a paper towel, or with your own towel that no one else shares.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Stay connected over the phone or virtually
- While you are self-isolating, keep connected with friends or family virtually or over the phone
- Visit our mental well-being page to learn more about available mental well-being support services.
- If you have non-health related questions about support services, call Service BC at 1-888-268-4319 (available 7:30am-8pm, 7 days a week)
During the period of self-isolation, you need to self-monitor daily for fever, cough or worsening symptoms. Check your temperature daily (if possible). The BC self-assessment tool will help you assess your symptoms.
If you have been contacted by a health care provider, follow the advice that you have received regarding self-isolation and your symptoms.