As the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds, nations around the world are enforcing measures to ease the spread of the virus. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO), officially declared the outbreak a pandemic. Health workers and governments are working tirelessly to control the situation, but each of us also has an important part to play.
Provincial Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, urged British Columbians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on March 16 that Canada will be shutting the border to non-Canadian citizens, with the exception of permanent residents, their immediate families, diplomats and U.S. citizens at this time. Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 will not be able to enter Canada. Besides avoiding international travel, there are a number of things we can all do to help curb COVID-19.
Social distancing is one of the most important steps we can all take to protect ourselves and the vulnerable. Trudeau urged all Canadians to stay home as much as possible. Avoid crowded places and non-essential travel, and consider shopping or taking transit at off peak times if you must take it. In BC, gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned. If your place of work allows you to do your job remotely, stay at home.
Avoid handshakes and hugs when greeting others, and try to keep a distance of approximately two metres from others in public spaces. Keeping this distance will help you avoid infection if someone is coughing or sneezing.
Our hands touch a huge variety of surfaces on a daily basis, and can pick up viruses and bacteria. Ensure you practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Use hand sanitizer if you are on the go - washing with hot water and soap for 20 seconds is just as effective if you don’t have access to sanitizer. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the used tissue immediately.
If you feel unwell or have been in contact with someone known to have COVID-19, contact HealthLink BC by dialling 811. There is also a dedicated helpline for those who need assistance: 1-888-COVID-19. A nurse will assess your risk and may suggest you visit your family physician, a walk-in, or an Urgent Primary Care Centre. If your symptoms are mild, you will be asked to self-isolate at home. Call ahead to inform them of your visit and follow their instructions. If you have travelled internationally, you must self-isolate at home for 14 days. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear.
If you have family, friends, or neighbours who have compromised immune systems or are elderly, check if they need groceries or other items, especially if they are self-isolating. It can be lonely, so staying in contact via text or FaceTime can make things easier. If you are shopping for groceries, only buy what you need to ensure there is enough for more vulnerable residents.
By being considerate and vigilant, British Columbians can work together to protect our most vulnerable residents from COVID-19. BC’s doctors and allied health professionals are doing all they can, but they need our help, too.
BC Centre for Disease Control: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19