Information on self-isolation and returning to work after self-isolation and/or COVID-19 diagnosis.
What is self-isolation (self-quarantine)?
Self-isolation is done by people who have confirmed COVID-19 or are likely to have it. It means separating yourself from others, including staying at home, to avoid situations where you could infect other people. The goal of self-isolation is to lower the chance of spreading the virus.
How do I self-isolate?
- Stay home the whole time you self-isolate. Try to arrange for food and essential items to be delivered and dropped off at your door when you need them.
- Avoid face to face contact with others, including those who live in your home.
- Do not go to work, school, or public areas
- If you must leave the home, such as for an urgent medical assessment, do not use public transport, taxis, or ride shares. Call the medical centre in advance of going.
- Do not have non-essential visitors to your home.
- If possible, have other people who live in your home stay somewhere else, especially if they have a chronic health condition or are older.
- If you need to share a home, stay and sleep in a separate room with good airflow that is away from others. Use a separate bathroom if possible, and keep at least 2 metres distance away from others.
- Wear a face mask if you are in the same room as someone else or when you must leave the house to see a healthcare provider.
- Practice frequent hand hygiene and cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue
- During the period of self-isolation, 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 are having worsening symptoms, call 8-1-1 or your family doctor
- If your symptoms are not improving at 5 or more days after you initially started feeling unwell, call 8-1-1 or your family doctor
- 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), call 9-1-1.
Plan ahead and prepare for what you will do if you or a family member becomes sick and needs care. You can ask friends or relatives if you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication. Alternatively, you can order groceries and medication by phone or online.
What is self-isolation? Who needs to self-isolate?
Self-isolation is done by people who have confirmed COVID-19 or are likely to have it. It means separating yourself from others, including staying at home, to avoiding situations where you could infect other people. The goal of self-isolation is to lower the chance of spreading the virus.
We are currently asking the following groups to self-isolate:
- anyone with new onset symptoms, however mild (Cough, fever, sore throat, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, headache, loss of appetite, chills, runny nose, and loss of sense of smell or taste).
- people diagnosed with COVID-19,
- people who are waiting for COVID-19 test results
- returning travellers, and
- close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases (who have been instructed by Public Health)
If you are a returning traveller from outside of Canada or a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, please self-isolate for 14 days even if you do not have symptoms. Please note, if you are a returning traveller, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days under the Federal Quarantine Act.
This is because 14 days is the time it can take for COVID-19 to go from initially infecting you to making you feel sick. This is called the incubation period. There is a chance that you can spread germs in the incubation period, and so people who do not have symptoms but are at higher risk of having been exposed to the illness are asked to self-isolate in addition to those who are showing symptoms.
Please complete this online self-assessment tool to determine whether you should self-isolate.
Please read below for information on self-isolation and visit our page on Testing for COVID-19 for information on whether you need testing, and specific guidance.
I am feeling ill with cough and flu-like symptoms. What should I do?
If you feel unwell, it may be the case that you have a common cold or flu, rather than COVID-19. Regardless, if you have cough and flu-like symptoms, however mild, please self-isolate and get tested. Please also use the BC self-assessment tool to help determine if you need further assessment by a physician, nurse practitioner or a local collection (testing) centre.
Find your local collection centre for testing by the following links. You can also call 8-1-1 to find the nearest centre.
- Collection centre finder (Mobile and desktop)
- Collection centre finder for Internet Explorer users
While self-isolating, monitor yourself daily for fever, cough and worsening symptoms and check your temperature each day (if possible). The BC self-assessment tool will help you assess your symptoms.
- Visit our Self isolation page for information on how long and how to self-isolate.
- If you have worsening symptoms at any time OR you are not feeling better 5 or 6 days after you initially started feeling unwell, call 8-1-1, your family doctor, or an Urgent and Primary Care Centre.
- 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), call 9-1-1.
What is self-monitoring?
Self-monitoring means monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or feeling unwell.
To self-monitor, you should:
- Take and record temperature daily
- 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.
- Call 8-1-1, your family doctor, or an Urgent and Primary Care Centre if you are having worsening symptoms or if they are not improving after 5 or 6 days of illness.
- Call 9-1-1 if you feel very unwell and are concerned about a medical emergency.
How long do I need to self-isolate?
If you are a returned traveler from outside of Canada OR close contact of a confirmed case and do not develop symptoms, you do not require a test, but self-isolate and self-monitor for 14 days. Self-isolation can end 14 days after the last contact with someone with COVID-19 or 14 days from the day you return to Canada if you have not developed symptoms. For returning travelers, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days under the Federal Quarantine Act.
If you develop symptoms during these 14 days, please get tested at a COVID-19 testing center (visit our testing information page for where and how to get tested). Thank you for getting tested as testing provides valuable public health information to help inform our public health responses.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by Public Health with further instructions. You will continue to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days after the start of symptoms AND until fever is gone without the use of anti-fever medications AND until symptoms resolve (with exceptions of isolated cough) whichever takes the longest.
- If you test negative for COVID-19 and have symptoms, you still need to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of symptoms AND for 14 days after your last contact with a COVID-19 case or 14 days from the day you arrived back to Canada, whichever is longest.
If you develop symptoms and are not a returning traveler OR close contact of a confirmed case, self-isolate and get tested at a COVID-19 testing center.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 you will be contacted by Public Health with further instructions. You will self-isolate for at least 10 days starting from when your symptoms began AND until fever is gone without the use of anti-fever medications AND until symptoms resolve (with exceptions of isolated cough). For example, if after 10 days you still have fever or fatigue or runny nose, 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.
- If you tested positive for COVID-19 and were hospitalized you will receive instructions in hospital and by Public Health.
- If you test negative for COVID-19, continue to self-isolate until your symptoms resolve. Coughing may continue for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean you need to continue to self-isolate for longer.
Visit our testing information page for when, where, and how to get tested.
How do I disinfect my home?
Clean and disinfect common areas once a day. Each day, clean places and surfaces in the room(s) that you are staying in. Regular cleaning products are fine for this.
For areas that are touched often, you can disinfect them (kill germs) by mixing 1/50 solution of bleach and water (e.g. approximately 20 ml bleach per litre of water or 2 1/2 ounces per gallon). This can be used for counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. It is especially important to use bleach to disinfect if you are sharing any common areas (such as a bathroom) with others or if others will be entering the room(s) where you are staying.
Source – BC Centre for Disease Control
I am a returning traveller, what do I need to do?
On March 25, an order was made under the Federal Quarantine Act, making it legally required for anyone arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days upon their arrival, even if you do not have symptoms. In addition, starting April 10th, all returning travelers arriving in BC must complete a self-isolation plan before or upon arrival.
It is legally required* for anyone arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival, whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19.
- All returning travelers must complete a self-isolation plan before or upon arrival to BC. More information on the self-isolation plan is available here: Self-Isolation on Return to BC.
- Upon arrival, you must use private transportation (such as your own vehicle) to go directly to your place of self-isolation
- You must wear a non-medical mask or face covering while traveling to your place of self-isolation
- If you do not have a self-isolation plan or do not have adequate supports to self-isolate, you will be directed to provincial accommodation where you can safely complete your 14-day self-isolation
If at any point you develop respiratory symptoms, continue to self-isolate and use the BC self-assessment tool for guidance on testing. You can find information on when to get tested and how long and how to self-isolate on our Self isolation and Testing for COVID-19 pages.
Translated posters for travellers arriving in Canada
Returning to work after self-isolation and/or COVID-19 diagnosis
Are return-to-work letters required for employees who have been self-isolating or diagnosed with COVID-19?
Public Health does not issue return-to-work letters for people who have been self-isolating and/or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Public Health monitors daily those self-isolating and/or diagnosed, and advises when they are safe to return. Clearance to return to work occurs once it has been determined that at least 10 days have elapsed since symptom onset and all symptoms (except lingering dry cough) have resolved.
Those asked to self-isolate are able to return to work on a date provided to them by Public Health – 14 days following the date of their initial exposure.
How do I request a return-to-work letter from Public Health?
Public Health does not routinely issue return-to-work letters for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or self-isolating.
Public Health monitors daily those self-isolating and/or diagnosed, and advises when they are safe to return.
Do employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 need a negative COVID-19 test return-to-work?
A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return to work following COVID illness.
Workers are cleared to return to work by Public Health when at least 10 days have elapsed since symptom onset, and all symptoms (except lingering dry cough) have resolved.
People should not be re-tested after a diagnosis of COVID-19, unless specifically advised to do so by Public Health as evidence shows that the test may remain positive long after risk of COVID-19 transmission has ended.
Do employees who have been self-isolating due to COVID-19 need a negative COVID-19 test return-to-work?
A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return to work following self-isolation due to COVID exposure.
Workers are cleared to return to work by Public Health 14 days following the date of their initial exposure.
When is a negative COVID-19 test required to return to work?
Employees with new onset of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness (GI) illness that is not better explained by another illness should self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19.
If this test is negative, employees may return to work after symptoms resolve.