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The Government of Canada is asking all Canadians currently returning from any travel abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

The request has been issued in order to help limit the spread of COVID-19, which is transmittable even by some people who are not experiencing any symptoms.

By the federal government’s description, self-isolation involves not leaving home unless “absolutely necessary,” such as seeking medical care.

What can I do to stay safe from COVID-19?

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through airborne droplets by coughing or sneezing, through touching a surface those droplets have touched, or through personal contact with infected people.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly

The World Health Organization recommends regular hand-washing and physical distancing – that is, keeping at least two metres from someone with a cough. If you have to cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose if you can.

The CDC says to frequently clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.

  • If you show symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention and do what your health-care provider recommends. That may include staying home from work or school and getting lots of rest until the symptoms go away.

COVID-19 is much more serious for older adults. As a precaution, older adults should continue frequent and thorough hand-washing, and avoid exposure to people with respiratory symptoms.

Check the WHO’s information page for more details on the virus, and The Globe and Mail’s guide of what health officials say is helpful for the public to do or not do about it.

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Expectations for returning travellers and others who are self-isolating include:

  • Staying home from work and school (where schools are still open);
  • Avoiding public transportation;
  • Arranging to have supplies such as groceries dropped off at their doors;
  • Especially avoiding elderly people and anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions;
  • Keeping any unavoidable interactions with other people brief, maintaining at least two metres’ distance from them and wearing a mask.

Coronavirus questions answered by health columnist André Picard

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Advice for enhanced hygiene measures within the home by those who are self-isolating include:

  • Frequently washing their hands, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, or removing dirt with a wet wipe and then using alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Avoiding touching their faces;
  • Coughing and sneezing only into the bend of their arm or a tissue;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting at least once daily the surfaces they touch frequently, using regular household disinfectants or diluted bleach;
  • Avoiding sharing personal items with others living in the same residence;
  • Closing the toilet lid before flushing;
  • Carefully disposing contaminated items that can’t otherwise be cleaned along with other household waste.

Those in self-isolation are advised to get lots of rest and eat a balanced diet. They are to monitor themselves for symptoms and immediately get in touch with their health-care provider or with public-health authorities if those symptoms worsen.

The government’s call for returning travellers to self-isolate was made this weekend, as Ottawa also encouraged Canadians currently abroad to swiftly make arrangements to return home, owing to the prospect of coming flight cancellations.

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