Health

How to Get Tested For Coronavirus In Canada

Plus the actual symptoms and a guide to getting help

NOTE: This post is being updated frequently with the most recent information from official federal and provincial sources. As events are changing quickly, it includes information not only from government websites, but also Twitter feeds, press conferences and other sources. Last update was Friday, March 13 at 1 p.m.

As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 spreads in Canada, the sheer volume of information and misinformation about it can make it difficult to know exactly what is going on, and what to if you think you or someone near you could have the virus.

So Maclean’s has compiled information about the current situation in Canada, symptoms of COVID-19, who is most vulnerable to the virus, as well as self-isolation and notification details for each province and territory. We combed through the official coronavirus webpages of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), which recently published a preliminary report on the outbreak in China. Sources are noted throughout this post.

As each province and territory has its own health terminology—Telehealth Ontario vs. Health Link 811 in Alberta—much of the wording is taken directly from their sites to avoid confusion.

An important note: this information is frequently revised and updated by the authorities. This post, too, is being updated regularly, but we urge readers to click on the links, especially the official sites, for the latest.

Also, wash your hands with soap. Often.

To go directly to information and instructions for your home province on this post, follow the applicable link below:

British Columbia
Alberta
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Ontario
Quebec
New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories
Yukon

Nunavut

Read this next: How Worried Should We *Really* Be About the Spread of Coronavirus?

Symptoms

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus while the average is 5-6 days after infection (PHAC and WHO)

According to a World Health Organization report from the end of February on COVID-19 in China, symptoms in confirmed cases included:

  • Fever (88%)
  • Dry cough (68%)
  • Fatigue (38%)
  • Sputum production (33%)
  • Shortness of breath (19%)
  • Muscle or joint pain (15%)
  • Sore throat (14%)
  • Headache (14%)
  • Chills (11%)

The WHO report on COVID-19 in China found that:

  • 80% of patients experienced mild to moderate effects (fever, cough, maybe pneumonia—but not needing supplemental oxygen)
  • 14% suffered severe symptoms (requiring supplemental oxygen, including via a ventilator)
  • 1% were critical (respiratory failure, septic shock and/or organ dysfunction/failure)

Who is most vulnerable?

As of March 11, the Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the public health risk as LOW for the general population. But there is increased risk of more severe outcomes for those:

  • Aged 65 and over
  • With compromised immune systems
  • With underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases including:
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • heart, renal or chronic lung disease (Ont.)

Those warnings follow the findings of that February WHO report on COVID-19 in China. According to the research team, the age difference among those affected was stark: 21.9 per cent of those over 80 years died, while just 2.4 per cent of all reported cases were children aged 18 and under (only 0.2 percent of those became critically ill).

As well, while 1.4 percent of COVID-19 patients with no other underlying conditions died, those with other conditions experienced much higher death rates:

  • cardiovascular disease (13.2%)
  • diabetes (8.4%)
  • hypertension (8.4%)
  • chronic respiratory disease (8%)
  • cancer (7.6%)

In more severe cases, public health authorities believe infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death (Sask). Yet, unlike the nature of influenza, pregnant women do not appear to be at a higher risk for the severe form of COVID-19, according to the WHO report.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms

Contact a care provider in your area to get tested (province-by-province contact information below). There are some basic caveats to observe, though, before and after you get tested, as the B.C. site explains:

  • If it becomes harder to breathe, you can’t drink anything or feel much worse than when you got tested, seek immediate medical care at an urgent-care clinic or emergency department. If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Call ahead before you get medical care. If leaving your home for care, call ahead and tell the clinic you are coming in and that you just had a COVID-19 test. By calling ahead, you help the clinic, hospital, lab, urgent care or doctor’s office prepare for your visit and stop the spread of germs. Remind each health care provider that is taking care of you that you are waiting for COVID-19 test results.
  • Self-isolate

The health-care professionals will need to know: a) your symptoms b) where you have been travelling or living c) if you had direct contact with animals, for example, if you visited a live animal market d) if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

Read this next: Coronavirus: How to Cope with the Stress of Social Distancing

How have Canadians exposed to COVID-19 been affected?

As of March 12, there were 138 cases so far in Canada: B.C. (46), Alberta (19), Ontario (59), Quebec (13) and repatriated Canadians (1), per the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):

  • One person has died of COVID-19
  • 13% of ill individuals were hospitalized
  • 67% were over the age of 40
  • 80% were travellers and 12% were close contacts of those travellers

Federal government

Official site here.

Getting advice: The Public Health Agency of Canada has an information line about COVID-19 at 1-833-784-4397. It has interpretation services available in multiple languages.

March 13 update from Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada:

  • She advises residents to postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
  • All travellers from outside Canada should voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days
  • The self-isolation restrictions that currently apply to travellers returning from Iran and Hubei province in China (see below) has been extended to Italy.

Self-isolation and reporting

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, all travellers returning to Canada from Hubei province of ChinaIran or Italy are advised to:

  • Self-isolate: stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in their home, for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei province or Iran
  • Contact the local public health unit within 24 hours of arriving in Canada
  • Contact your provincial/territorial/local health authorities if you experience symptoms of COVID-19

Travellers returning from other areas under active COVID-19 travel advisories, including Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, France, Germany and Spain should:

  • Monitor themselves for symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus for 14 days after leaving the affected area
  • Contact your provincial/territorial/local health authorities if you experience symptoms of COVID-19

What about travelling?

The risk of COVID-19 may be increased for:

As of March 11, Canada has active COVID-19 travel advisories for 10 nations particularly affected by the virus. Each advisory has detailed information for that specific country:

  • China (Level 3: avoid non-essential travel)
  • Iran (Level 3: avoid non-essential travel)
  • Italy (Level 3: avoid non-essential travel)
  • South Korea (Level 2: practise special precautions)
  • Japan (Level 2: practise special precautions)
  • France (Level 1: practise usual precautions)
  • Germany (Level 1: practise usual precautions)
  • Hong Kong (Level 1: practise usual precautions)
  • Singapore (Level 1: practise usual precautions)
  • Spain (Level 1: practise usual precautions)

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Advice from provincial and territorial governments, and where to get information

Specific information regarding self-isolation and reporting varies by province, so here are the breakdowns, using the wording from their own websites. Please note that new information is causing their risk assessments to be re-evaluated.


British Columbia

Official site for HealthLink BC here and BC Centre for Disease Control here.

Getting help: contact your primary care provider, local public health office, or call 811 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC.

March 12 update:

  • The province recommends against all non-essential travel outside of Canada, including to the U.S.
  • Effective today, anyone who chooses to travel outside of Canada will be asked to stay away from work or school for 14 days upon return. This is a voluntary measure, but it is the expectation of authorities that people will follow this direction as part of their civic duty.
  • B.C. is also directing all event organizers to cancel any gathering larger than 250 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings or other similar events. This threshold has been selected, as it is much easier to maintain important social distancing to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
  • Authorities are asking employers to excuse staff for sick leave without requiring a doctor’s note, if their employees are ill or required to self-isolate.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

British Columbians should monitor their health while they are travelling and after they return. If you have any symptoms at all of a cold or influenza, even if they’re mild, stay away from others. If you have been to areas, particularly where we know there has been transmission of COVID-19, then call your health-care provider, call 811, call public health.

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Alberta

Official site here.

Getting help: call Health Link 811 for instructions if any symptoms begin

March 12 update: Effective immediately, the Alberta government is asking all large gatherings or international events in the province to be cancelled and advising Albertans against travel outside of the country.

  • Alberta is asking organizers to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees. This includes large sporting events, conferences and community events. It does not extend to places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres.
  • Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations should also be cancelled.
  • Events that do not meet these criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation must be in place, such as sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees.
  • At this time, schools and daycares can remain open, but steps should be taken to ensure that no more than 250 individuals are in the same room at any given time.
  • Effective March 12, all Albertans who are currently outside the country should self-isolate on their return for 14 days, regardless of the country they were visiting.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Anyone returning from outside of Canada, should follow these steps:

  • monitor yourself for symptoms such as cough or fever for 14 days
  • isolate yourself and call Health Link 811 for instructions on follow-up testing if you:
    • feel ill after returning and/or experience symptoms
    • were in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
    • were in a health-care facility in an affected country
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Saskatchewan

Official site here.

Getting help: call HealthLine 811 (204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257) for direction and to be connected to public health

Self-isolation/reporting information:

All travellers should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) for 14 days after returning to Canada and avoid places where you cannot easily separate yourself from others if you become ill. If you have even mild symptoms, stay home and call HealthLine 811 for advice.

If you have travelled to a country with a Level 3 travel advisory, limit your contact with others for a total of 14 days starting the day you began your journey to Canada. This means self-isolate and stay at home. Contact HealthLine 811 within 24 hours of arriving in Canada for direction.
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Manitoba

Official site here.

Getting help: call Health Links – Info Santé for advice on where to go to be assessed

Self-isolation/reporting information:

If you have symptoms of a respiratory illness (regardless of travel), even if mild, stay home until your symptoms are gone.

Self-isolation is recommended for the following groups for 14 days after departing the area, or since their last known contact or exposure:

  • travellers returning from Iran, Italy or the Chinese province of Hubei
  • contacts of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19
  • laboratory workers exposed during work

Self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 is recommended for the following groups for 14 days after return to Manitoba, or since their last known contact or exposure:

  • All returning international travellers,
  • Close contacts (within two meters/six feet) of individuals with flu-like symptoms who have travelled internationally within 14 days prior to becoming sick

International travellers who develop cold or flu-like symptoms within 14 days of returning to Manitoba should contact Health Links-Info Santé to determine if testing for COVID-19 should be considered. In cases where testing is not recommended, they should stay home (self-isolate) until they are well.
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Ontario

Official site for Ministry of Health here and Public Health Ontario here.

Getting help: contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit

March 13 update from Otario’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, who issued new recommendations against international travel:

  • Williams is strongly advising the people of Ontario to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada
  • In light of the province’s recent positive cases in young children, if you decide to travel outside of Canada with children, they will be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days upon return.”
  • He also recommends the immediate cancellation of all large events or public gatherings of over 250 people.

March 12 update: The Minister of Education has issued a Ministerial Order to close all publicly funded schools in Ontario for two weeks following March break, in response to the emergence in Ontario of COVID-19. This means Ontario schools have been ordered to remain closed from March 14 through to April 5, 2020.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Travellers who have returned from Hubei province in China or from Iran should:

  • contact their local public health unit within 24 hours of arriving in Canada
  • stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in their home, for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei province (China) or Iran
  • contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or their local public health unit if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus

Travellers who have returned from areas under a travel health advisory for COVID-19 should:

  • monitor themselves for symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus for 14 days after leaving the affected area
  • contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or their local public health unit if they experience symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus

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Quebec

Official site here.

Getting help: contact Info‑Santé 811

March 13 update: Premier François Legault announced the closure of all schools, universities, CEGEPs and day-care services for at least two weeks. Special day-care centres will be created for health sector workers so they can continue to work.

March 12 update: (this is a translation as the official coronavirus page was French-only as of this update):

The premier announced that

  • Everyone returning to the province from outside Canada as of March 12 should voluntarily go into self-isolation for 14 days and report all symptoms to health authorities.
  • The same 14-day isolation is mandatory for all public employees, including health workers, teachers and daycare workers, returning from travel outside the country, including the United States.
  • There is a ban on all indoor gatherings of more than 250 people for a period of 30 days starting on March 12.
  • The government recommends cancelling all travel that is not essential.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

People who have symptoms

People who report symptoms at the airport will be assessed by a quarantine officer. Under the Quarantine Act, the officer is authorized to take appropriate measures if there is a potential public health risk, such as ordering the traveller to be taken to hospital for a medical examination.

People who do not have symptoms

Travellers from Hubei Province, China must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) in China  page.

Travellers from Iran must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19) in Iran  page.

Travellers from mainland China and other countries must follow the detailed recommendations on the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19): Travel advice  page.

Travellers from the MS Westerdam, a Holland America cruise ship, must follow the detailed recommendations in the “For passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship” section of the Coronavirus disease (COVID‑19): Travel advice  to obtain the specific recommendations issued by the Government of Canada.
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New Brunswick

Official site: here.

Getting help: contact Telecare 811

March 12 update: The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends that any non-essential gathering of 150 or more people be cancelled or postponed until officials are able to better determine the risk to the population. 

March 10 updateEducation Minister Dominic Cardy announced that everyone who returning home from international locations after March 8 should stay away from schools, early learning facilities and educational offices for 14 days. The isolation notice also applies to the University of New Brunswick.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Anyone who has traveled internationally in the last 14 days should self-monitor for two weeks from when they arrived back in Canada. Individual risk will vary depending on the destination.

People arriving from Iran or the Chinese province of Hubei will need to self-isolate regardless of symptoms.

Symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing may take up to 14 days to appear.

Should an individual who has recently traveled outside the country experience non-specific symptoms (such as headache, congestion, achiness, feeling unwell) they should separate themselves from others and stay home to monitor themselves further.

Should these symptoms progress to include fever or cough, the individual should:

  • continue to stay at home
  • immediately call Tele-Care 811
  • describe symptoms and travel history
  • follow instructions carefully

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Nova Scotia

Official site: here.

Getting help: call 811 for assessment (Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres. If you need in-person assessment, 811 will refer you to a centre. Don’t go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 referred you)

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre is limiting visitors at all sites to prevent the spread of any respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

To help protect older Nova Scotians, and those most at risk for severe illness, government is restricting visitors who have travelled outside the country in the last 14 days from entering long-term care homes. As always, don’t enter a facility if you’re feeling unwell.

If you’ve travelled outside Canada, you may have come in contact with the novel coronavirus. If you start to feel unwell, you should self isolate – this means staying home, away from the public.

Upon returning to Canada, you will be instructed at border entry points and through public messaging to monitor your health for 14 days from the day you entered Canada and minimize your contact with individuals who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

If you’ve travelled to Italy, Iran, and Hubei Province in China, you are asked to self-isolate for 14 days from the day you entered Canada.

If you develop a fever, with a temperature 38 C or higher, or a cough, you should call 811 for assessment.

Nova Scotia Health Authority has established COVID-19 assessment centres. If you need in-person assessment, 811 will refer you to a centre. Don’t go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 referred you.

If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, you can get information from Nova Scotia Health Authority Public Health by contacting the nearest office.
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Prince Edward Island

Official site: here.

Getting help: Call 811 for instructions

March 13 update: The Chief Public Health Office is issuing new recommendations to limit the potential number of cases and spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Islanders who have travelled outside of Canada (whether experiencing symptoms or not) are required to self-isolate for 14 days following their return. This includes teachers, students and health care workers.
  • All non-essential travel outside of country should be cancelled.
  • Residents should reconsider attending social gatherings where a two-metre distance from others is not possible, especially if elderly or immune-compromised people are present.

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Returning travellers from Hubei province in China are encouraged to call 811 to connect with local Public Health for further advice and support. Public Health is available to support people who have been travelling to ensure they know the symptoms to monitor themselves.

If you have not been travelling recently but are still concerned about coronavirus, please read the following questions carefully:

  1. In the past 14 days, have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus?
  2. In the past 14 days, have you been in close contact with a person with fever or acute respiratory illness (new or worsening cough or difficulty breathing) who has been outside of Canada within 14 days prior to becoming ill?

If the answer is yes to either question, stay at home and call 811 for further assessment.
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Newfoundland and Labrador

Official site here.

Getting help: follow-up with your health care provider or call the NL Healthline at 811

Self-isolation/reporting information:

Individuals who have travelled outside of the country or attended a mass gathering event with international attendees in the 14 days prior to their return to Newfoundland and Labrador are asked to closely monitor their health and contact 811 if you develop fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Anyone who has been to the Hubei province of China, Iran, or Italy,or has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or someone that is ill and has travelled to these areas, are asked to self-isolate (away from work and school) for 14 days from their last day in the region or their last contact with the affected person. They are asked to monitor themselves and their household contacts closely. Those in self-isolation should contact 811 to receive supporting health information from Newfoundland and Labrador Public Health.

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Yukon

Official site here.

Getting help: phone 811 or your health provider

Self-isolation/reporting information:

If you have signs of a respiratory infection (fever, cough or shortness of breath)
AND within 14 days have:

  • travelled to affected countries;
    OR
  • have lived with, or provided direct care to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19);
    OR
  • lived with, or provided direct care to, a person with acute respiratory illness who has recently travelled to affected countries.

Please stay at home and phone 811 or your health provider.
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Northwest Territories

Official site here.

Getting help: tell your health care provider

Self-isolation/reporting information:

If you or your family member have travelled outside of N.W.T. within the last 14 days, the N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer advises that you:

  • Follow healthy respiratory practices.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms. If you develop fever, cough or difficulty breathing contact a local health-care provider. If your symptoms are severe call 911.  It is best to call in advance and tell the local health-care provider of any recent travel or contact with travellers.
  • If you feel unwell, avoid close contact with others.

In collaboration with federal and provincial partners, the N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer advises that, if you visited China’s Hubei province or Iran within the last 14 days you should isolate yourself for 14 days upon your return. This is precautionary and we advise self-isolation even if you are feeling well.
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Nunavut

Official site here.

Getting help: call your local health centre

Self-isolation/reporting information:

It is important for all travellers to:

  • self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) for 14 days after returning to Canada
  • avoid places where you cannot easily separate yourself from others if you become ill

If you have even mild symptoms, stay home and call your health centre to inform them. They will provide advice on what you should do.

If you become ill

If you develop symptoms and have travelled to a region with known cases of COVID-19 occurring in the community or have been in contact with someone who has:

  • stay at home and avoid contact with others
  • follow up with your health care professional

If you develop fever, cough or difficulty breathing in the next 14 days, call your health care provider or local public health authority and advise them of possible contact with COVID-19.

If you are ill and must visit a health care professional, call ahead or tell them when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and if you have travelled.

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