For most Canadians, the recent coronavirus outbreak is scary, fascinating, and the only pandemic we’ve ever experienced. Because the virus is new and we’ve never been in this situation before, there’s a lot of misinformation spreading about the virus and its associated disease, COVID-19.
You’ve probably read a ton of articles about coronavirus over the last few weeks, but maybe still have a lot of questions too. You may even be tired of hearing about COVID-19 by now, but it’s important to keep apprised of the latest developments, and have access to reliable and updated information about the situation.
We’ve checked with the experts — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Health Canada — to answer the questions that most Canadians are asking, and give you the latest information about coronavirus, COVID-19, and the current pandemic.
Online resources by province
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Website|
Live COVID-19 maps of Canada
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases – Johns Hopkins University
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update – Government of Canada
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Map – University of Washington
What is the coronavirus? What’s COVID-19?
You’ve probably heard a lot of terms being thrown around lately, like coronavirus, the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19. We’ll help you sort out what they are.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can make both humans and animals sick, and that can be transmitted between species. If you were around in 2003, you might remember the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that spread through Toronto. SARS, like some other respiratory diseases (including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)), is caused by coronaviruses.
The novel (meaning new) coronavirus refers to a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in 2019. This is the strain that’s at the centre of the current pandemic.
COVID-19 — an abbreviation of Coronavirus disease 2019 — is the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Back in 2003, a different strain of coronavirus was responsible for the SARS outbreak. The first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Wuhan, China, on January 7, 2020, though the outbreak began in late December of 2019.
Why has this been declared a pandemic?
On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. While this sounds like a scary word, it helps to understand some basic definitions.
An epidemic is “an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.”
A pandemic is “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.”
The WHO decision to declare COVID-19 a pandemic wasn’t made lightly, but happened because the disease spread quickly to all 6 inhabited continents on the planet. Once COVID-19 started spreading across international borders around the world, the classification was changed from epidemic to pandemic.
What’s the timeline of the coronavirus in Canada?
January 25, 2020: Canada documents its first case of coronavirus in Ontario. The virus is brought here by somebody who became infected while travelling in Wuhan.
January 27: The infected man’s wife becomes ill with COVID-19.
January 28: B.C. reports its first case, which is also related to travel in Wuhan.
February 5: A coronavirus outbreak is confirmed on a Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has 250 Canadians onboard. 40 Canadians become infected. The ship is quarantined for almost 2 weeks, and after that the Canadians are quarantined for another 2 weeks in either Japan or Cornwall, Ontario.
February 9: Ten Canadian airports in 6 provinces are now screening travellers coming back from infection zones.
February 20: Canada reports the first case that’s not related to travel in mainland China.
February 27: Quebec documents its first presumptive case, which is related to a woman in Montreal who travelled to Iran.
March 4: Canada reports 33 confirmed cases.
March 6: Canadians are asked to avoid cruise travel. Recently returned travellers are asked to self-monitor for 14 days.
March 9: Canada reports its first COVID-19 death at a long-term care home in B.C.
March 11: Canada reports 116 confirmed cases.
March 12: The Trudeau family announces Sophie Grégoire Trudeau tested positive for coronavirus. Her and the prime minister are in self-isolation.
March 13: The government asks Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada. People who are returning from international travel are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
March 16: There are 3 more deaths at the long-term care home in B.C., bringing the total to 4 deaths in Canada. International flights coming into Canada are restricted to Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal airports. Canada closes its borders (Canadian citizens and permanent residents excepted) to all countries but the U.S.
March 17: There are 424 cases of coronavirus in Canada and 4 deaths.
For the most up-to-date numbers, keep an eye on the outbreak updates from the Government of Canada.
Am I at risk?
Canada’s Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, has estimated that coronavirus could infect anywhere between 30 and 70% of Canadians. However, the government reminds Canadians that the public health system is prepared. Further, there’s a lot of important information to keep in mind about the potential seriousness of COVID-19, who’s most at risk, and who’s most at risk of serious illness. Let’s go over that now.
Seriousness of COVID-19
About 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild, and include mild respiratory and flu-like symptoms. In these cases, people generally recover on their own at home within 2 weeks. Most children and young adults who get sick only experience mild symptoms.
Another 14% of people become severely ill, while about 5% become critically ill. People who become severely or critically ill are at risk of other complications, including pneumonia and death.
Most of the patients who contract coronavirus and experience severe or critical symptoms are over 65, have a compromised immune system, or have underlying illnesses, such as:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Kidney disease
Of the coronavirus cases documented in Canada, 74% are people who have travelled recently, and another 6% are people who have been in contact with travellers. That’s why the government has advised against non-essential travel, and asked travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from international travel.
People in the public health sector are also more at-risk than other Canadians, as are residents of long-term care facilities.
The coronavirus is still very new, so the numbers will be updated. The current estimate for the coronavirus mortality rate is 3 to 4%. That number will likely decrease as more testing happens and more reliable data becomes available.
By comparison, the seasonal flu has a mortality rate below 0.1%. On the other hand, the SARS outbreak of 2003 had an average mortality rate of 14 to 15%.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Coronavirus causes symptoms that are similar to that of the seasonal flu or common cold. They can show up anywhere between 2 and 14 days after exposure. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Shortness of breath
Other people have also reported symptoms like a sore throat and runny nose. In serious cases, more severe symptoms can include:
- Kidney failure
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Difficulty waking up
- Blue lips or face
If you’re having difficulty breathing or experiencing serious symptoms, contact your emergency medical services.
I don’t feel well. What should I do?
The first response for many Canadians who are feeling sick is to go to the doctor, an urgent care clinic, or the emergency room. But right now, we are being asked to refrain from that to help prevent spreading the disease.
If you feel sick, have symptoms, or suspect you have COVID-19, stay home. Instead, call your doctor or provincial/local health authority to discuss symptoms and options before heading out to a medical clinic. These are the numbers to call:
- In B.C., call HealthLink BC at 811
- In Alberta, call Health Link at 811
- In Saskatchewan, call HealthLine at 811
- In Manitoba, call Health Links-Info Santé at 1-888-315-9257
- In Ontario, call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
- In Quebec, call Santé Québec at 1-877-644-4545
- In New Brunswick, call Tele-care at 811
- In Nova Scotia, call the Nova Scotia Health Authority at 811
- In PEI, call Telehealth at 811
- In Newfoundland and Labrador, call HealthLine at 811
- In Yukon, call HealthLine at 811
- In Northwest Territories, call your local public health clinic
- In Nunavut, call your healthcare provider
How is COVID-19 diagnosed and treated?
There is a lab test for COVID-19, and public health agencies around the country are setting up testing centres for people who exhibit certain symptoms and who meet certain risk factors. To complete the test, a medical professional will take a nose or throat swab.
Once COVID-19 has been confirmed, there’s no specific treatment to cure it. Like with the seasonal cold and flu, people who are sick should:
- Stay home and avoid contact with others
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated
- Soothe coughing and sore throats with a humidifier or hot shower
Patients who are experiencing breathing difficulties may be given oxygen therapy.
How does coronavirus spread?
Coronaviruses are infections that affect the throat, nose, and lungs. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. As such, there are 3 main ways you can contract the virus:
- You breathe in respiratory droplets from an infected person
- You come into close physical contact with an infected person, such as hugging them or shaking their hand
- You touch an infected surface that respiratory droplets have landed on and then touch your nose, eyes, or mouth
What can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of coronavirus?
There are lots of easy but important steps you can take to keep yourself healthy and prevent the disease from spreading to others. Here are the steps the experts are recommending:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first
- When there’s no soap available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or the crook of your arm when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands after blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into a tissue
- When you cough or sneeze into a tissue, throw it out immediately
- Regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, phones, remotes, toilets, and faucets
- Wear a mask if you are symptomatic and have to be outside or in contact with others
- Stay away from people who are showing symptoms
- Thoroughly cook all food, especially meat and eggs
- Avoid non-essential international travel
- Practice social distancing, self-monitoring, self-isolation, and isolation
Social distance (for everybody)
Social distancing is exactly what it sounds like: it’s avoiding close physical contact with others, and it’s what everybody should be doing right now. It includes things like:
- Working from home when possible
- Avoiding large groups and crowds
- Staying home whenever possible
- Maintaining a distance of 1 to 2 metres between yourself and other people
- Staying away from hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other spaces with vulnerable populations
- Limiting your contact with other people
Self-monitor after possible exposure (for asymptomatic people)
Self-monitoring means practicing social distancing and monitoring your symptoms for 14 days. You should self-monitor if you don’t have any symptoms, but have potentially been exposed to coronavirus in the past 14 days.
Self-isolate after possible exposure (for asymptomatic people)
Self-isolation means staying home for 14 days, avoiding contact with others, and monitoring your symptoms for 14 days. You should self-isolate if you’ve lived with/cared for/been exposed to someone who’s infected, travelled outside Canada in the past 14 days, or been around somebody who’s travelled internationally.
Isolate after exposure (for symptomatic people)
Isolation means you stay home until the local public health authority clears you, and avoid contact with others, even in your home, during that time. Isolation is for people who are showing symptoms and who have been tested and are awaiting results, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
I heard that taking vitamin C and some other things can protect me. Is that true?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of false claims and misleading information being passed around right now, especially when it comes to ways you can prevent the disease, and products or foods that will cure it.
Currently, there is no known cure for coronavirus. Any product that claims to be able to treat it is either misleading consumers or outright lying. That includes things like vitamins, herbs, drugs, colloidal silver, alternative medicines, and the like. The best you can hope to do is treat the symptoms with rest and fluids.
Similarly, there are no quick tips or tricks that will prevent you from getting coronavirus. Drinking water every 15 seconds won’t keep you healthy, and neither will avoiding ice cream. The best way to prevent the spread of the disease is with proper hygiene and the social distancing/isolation techniques talked about in this article.
When you’re reading information about coronavirus and COVID-19, look to trusted sources like the CDC, WHO, Canadian government, and public health authorities.
The world is facing an unprecedented health crisis, but some of the most important things you can do right now are remaining calm, staying informed, and being prepared. Here in Canada, we are in a good position to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, as long as everybody does their part.
The coronavirus pandemic is certainly serious, but you can be part of the solution by practicing social distancing, having good hygiene, avoiding people who are sick, staying away from vulnerable populations, getting tested if you have symptoms, and staying home when you’re sick.
Most people recover from COVID-19 within 14 days, so if you’re feeling sick, then stay home, drink lots, and get plenty of rest. If you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency services provider and tell them you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Is there a vaccine or cure?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus, and no approved antiviral or other drugs to treat it. However, researchers are investigating possible drugs and vaccines, which are going through clinical trials.
How much food and supplies do I need?
Make sure you have enough to last you for about 2 weeks, in case you become ill and have to isolate yourself. Your supplies should include non-perishable foods, toiletries, pet food, children’s supplies (like diapers and formula), and medicines.
Should I buy all my supplies at once?
We are being cautioned against panic-buying and making large-scale purchases. If you don’t yet have a two-week supply of what you need, simply buy a few extra things every time you go shopping. That way, there will be enough supplies to go around for everyone.
What to read next
- Flattening the Curve of COVID-19 – Where Canada Stands
- 16 Sources of Financial Help & Relief for Canadians, Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
- Places to Buy Toilet Paper Online in Canada
- Coronavirus – World Health Organization (WHO)
- Coronavirus symptoms – CDC
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Public Health Agency of Canada
- WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19
- Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19) – WHO
- The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Ontario Government
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports – WHO
Over to you
Have any good ideas for people who are self-isolated to help pass the time? Share your quarantine stories in the comments below.