Coronavirus calls for self-isolation. Here’s how to do it properly

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How to properly practise self-isolation
How to properly practise self-isolation – Mar 15, 2020

As the new coronavirus continues to spread across Canada, public health officials are urging Canadians to practise diligent hygiene and social distancing.

That means trying to stay away from congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining a distance of roughly six feet from others when possible.

And, in the event that you receive a COVID-19 diagnosis, Canadians are required to self-isolate for roughly 14 days (or until you receive approval to leave your home from a public health official).

“It is crucial that individuals follow quarantine and self-isolation recommendations properly to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others in the home setting or in the community,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said on its website.

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It is recommended that Canadians have an emergency kit ready in the event that they’re required to self-isolate.

Isolation is defined as:

  • Not going out of the home setting
  • Not using public transportation
  • Identifying a “buddy” to check on and do errands for you, especially if you live alone or are at a higher risk for developing complications
  • Having supplies delivered home instead of running errands
  • Wearing a mask and maintaining a two-metre distance between yourself and others in the event that you must leave your home
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“The main principle [of self-isolation] is try to keep the sick person away from the not sick people as much as possible,” said Jeff Kwong, associate director of the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto.
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“[During self-isolation], the person who’s sick would stay in their own area and really try to minimize contact with those who are not sick.”

How to practice safe self-isolation

If someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, or if they test positive for the virus, Kwong suggests wearing a surgical mask when you’re in the same room as them. The person who is sick should also wear a mask.

“Wash your hands really frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer,” Kwong said. “Make sure you’re washing them for long enough.”

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The recommended length is 20 seconds, according to PHAC.

“You don’t want to be sharing glasses or utensils,” Kwong said. “These things could spread those droplets.”

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If you or someone in your house is sick, it’s probably a good idea to give them their own garbage.

“Be careful when you’re throwing away [the bag] and make sure you wash your hands right away after you throw it out,” said Kwong.
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Ideally, the sick person would have their own washroom that no one else uses. This would include a sink, a toilet and a shower.

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“Some people get diarrhea [from COVID-19], and [we have] detected its presence in feces,” he said. “Make sure the toilet is cleaned regularly.”

Instead of the sick person going into the kitchen to make their own food, a non-sick person could make them food and bring it into their bedroom wearing a mask and gloves. This will avoid potential contamination of the kitchen, too.

The places in your house to keep clean

“Places where you’re spitting” have high potential for transmitting the virus, so your sink should be cleaned regularly, said Kwong.

“The bathroom is a key area.”

Other areas of high contact should be cleaned regularly, too, including doorknobs, cupboard handles and TV remotes.

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Kwong recommends using diluted bleach or rubbing alcohol-based household cleaners to keep these areas disinfected.

When your self-isolation period is over, disinfect the entire room in which you were quarantined, and put your sheets through the washing machine separately at first to kill any remaining virus droplets.

Social distancing

If you haven’t received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, experts recommend social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Essentially it means to try and prevent a congregation of large groups of people together in circumstances that might facilitate transmission,” Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University, previously told Global News.

This can include cancelling large meetings or shutting schools and colleges.

“The important thing to remember is it’s not quarantining people, it’s not forbidding them to be out and about,” Evans said.

“Right now we want everybody to stay home if you’re sick,” she said.

“Even if you have the sniffles, you have a bit of a cold, your children are feeling a bit under the weather, keep them home from school, keep yourself home from work if you’re not feeling well. Even if you have no relationship to COVID-19, we want you to do that.”

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Personal hygiene

Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and host of the Super Awesome Science Show, says it’s a good idea to pair social distancing with personal hygiene, because it’s hard in some scenarios to stay six feet away from another person.

“The thing is that you can close schools, you can cancel concerts and conferences — can you close an airport? It’s pretty hard,” he previously told Global News.

“There are things that you can do to promote social distancing or at least to make sure that it happens by cancellations, but you can’t prevent people from coming into contact with one another in all situations.”

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This means cleaning surfaces, like desks and bathroom counters, is important. Handwashing, however, is the best way to protect yourself, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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People should also stay at home when they’re sick and cough into their elbows to avoid transmitting the virus.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah & Laura Hensley 

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