Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
On this page
1. What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not. COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans.
China determined that a novel coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) is responsible for the outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan. Authorities in China and worldwide are conducting further investigations to better understand where the disease came from, how it is spread and the clinical severity of illness in humans.
2. What are the symptoms?
Those with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.
Symptoms have included:
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia in both lungs
In severe cases, infection can lead to death.
3. What are the risks of getting COVID-19?
The public health risk associated with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, is low for Canada and for Canadian travellers.
Canada has no direct flights from Wuhan and the volume of travellers arriving indirectly from Wuhan is low. However, at this time, the Government of Canada recommends that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Canada also recommends that Canadians avoid all travel to the province of Hubei, including the cities of:
This recommendation is due to the heavy travel restrictions by Chinese authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.
4. Is there a vaccine to protect against COVID-19?
No, there is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
5. Will this year’s flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
No, the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.
6. What is the treatment for COVID-19?
For now, there is no specific treatments for most people with COVID-19. Most people with common coronavirus illness will recover on their own. At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Your health care provider may recommend steps you can take to relieve symptoms.
Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if:
- you are concerned about your symptoms or
- you have a travel history to a region where severe coronaviruses are known to occur
The sooner you consult your health care provider, the better your chances are for recovery.
7. How does COVID-19 spread?
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
8. What is the incubation period of COVID-19?
Current information indicates that symptoms may present themselves up to 14 days after exposure to COVID-19.
9. How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; and
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.
10. Should the general population in Canada wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19?
If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not necessary.
However, if you are experiencing symptoms of an illness that spreads through the air, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the infection to others. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze. Your health provider may recommend you wear a mask while you are seeking or waiting for care. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures that are put in place so that people with an infectious respiratory illness do not transmit the infection to others.
If you are caring for a sick person or you are in direct contact with an ill person, wearing a mask can help protect you from catching COVID-19, but it will not fully eliminate the risk of illness.
When wearing a mask, make sure to:
- properly cover your mouth and nose
- avoid touching the mask once it’s on your face
- properly discard the mask after each use
- wash your hands after removing the mask
It is not recommended that healthy people or people who have not travelled to a COVID-19-affected area (e.g. Hubei Province and mainland China) wear masks. Wearing a mask when you are not ill and are not at high risk for developing symptoms may give a false sense of security. Masks can easily become contaminated and need to be changed frequently and fitted properly for them to provide adequate protection.
You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others
11. Are Canadians at risk for contracting COVID-19 if they receive a package or products shipped from China?
There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages coming from affected regions in China.
Although there is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads, we can use the information from 2 other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) to guide us.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is considered to be a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that is shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.
Studies on the SARS coronavirus showed that the virus did not survive on dry surfaces such as paper. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread by respiratory droplets.
Currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.
There have not been any cases of COVID-19 in Canada associated with imported goods from China.
12. Where can I find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19?
For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s web page on COVID-19. You can also follow Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Twitter at @CPHO_Canada.
Canadians travelling abroad are encouraged to consult the Travel Health Notice for China on travel.gc.ca.
13. Can COVID-19 be transmitted when a person is not showing symptoms?
This question is under investigation at this time. Studies to answer this question are being conducted now.
While experts believe that spread from a person who is asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms) is possible, this is considered to be rare.
What we do know for certain is that COVID-19 is most often being spread through close contact with a person who is showing symptoms (symptomatic cases).
So based on the latest available data, the main driver of the COVID-19 outbreak is symptomatic cases.
That means the primary focus for containing the COVID-19 outbreak is to prevent exposure through direct and close contact.
The most effective way to control this type of spread is through good hygiene measures in community settings (handwashing, cough etiquette and staying home if sick) and strict infection prevention and control measures in health settings to prevent spread in hospital settings.
14. Is there a risk of contracting COVID-19 if I touch a surface that was potentially contaminated?
In general, coronaviruses have poor survivability on surfaces, and are generally thought to be spread by respiratory droplets left behind after someone coughs or sneezes.
For COVID-19, researchers are actively investigating to learn more about the ways that COVID-19 is transmitted.
In the meantime, the best way to prevent respiratory and other illnesses is to:
- avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
- consistently use good hand hygiene measures, which include frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- maintain good respiratory etiquette, such as covering your mouth and nose with your arm or sleeve when coughing and sneezing, disposing of any used tissues as soon as possible, and following with handwashing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers where soap and water are not available;
- regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that people touch frequently such as toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).
15. I am planning travel to China, what is the current advice?
The Government of Canada is continuing to recommend that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to Hubei province.
Canadians travelling abroad are encouraged to consult the Travel Health Notice for China for more information.
Always consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic at least 6 weeks before you travel.
When travelling to places near Hubei province, China:
- wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- use alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available
- it is a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel
- eat and drink safely abroad by staying away from raw or undercooked food and meat
- avoid high-risk areas such as farms, live animal markets and areas where animals may be slaughtered
- avoid close contact with people who may be sick, especially if they have difficulty breathing or have a fever or cough
- avoid contact with animals (alive or dead), including pigs, chickens, ducks and wild birds, and items contaminated with their body fluids
16. I am a returning traveller from the Hubei province in China, what do I need to do?
If you have travelled to Hubei province in the last 14 days, limit your contact with others for a total of 14 days from the date that you left Hubei. This means self-isolate and stay at home. In addition, contact the local public health authority in your province or territory within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.
All travellers from mainland China are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms and to contact the local public health authority in their province or territory if they feel sick.
Even if you have not been to mainland China, should a fever, cough, difficulty breathing or any other symptom arise within 14 days after returning to Canada, seek medical attention immediately. Inform your health care provider or local health authority about symptoms and travel history.
During your return to Canada
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 before you are scheduled to leave, do not get on board any form of public transportation. Seek medical attention.
If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 during a flight, tell the flight attendant before you land or the border services officer as you enter the country. They will notify a quarantine officer who will assess your symptoms.
If you do not have symptoms but believe you were exposed to a source of COVID-19, report this information to a Canada border services agent on arrival in Canada. This is required under the Quarantine Act. The Canada border services agent will provide instructions for you to follow.
We have put messaging on arrivals screens at international airports that will help guide travellers who have travelled to the province of Hubei, China. The screens tell travellers to inform a border services officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
In addition, pamphlets with additional information on what symptoms to identify and how to contact local health authorities will be provided to travellers.
During the 14 days after your return
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your appropriate public health authority immediately.
Describe your symptoms and document your travel history. Your health care professional or health authority will provide instructions for you to follow, including appropriate arrangements for your medical assessment.
If you are not already isolated, self-quarantine yourself in your home. Help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
17. Why are travellers returning from Hubei being asked to limit contact with others for 14 days following their arrival in Canada?
As we receive the latest data and science on COVID-19, health authorities across Canada are recommending that travellers who have been in Hubei limit their social contact for a total of 14 days from the date they left Hubei province. In addition, contact the local public health authority in your province or territory within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.
This supports the global public health objective to contain the outbreak in China and prevent further spread to Canada.
18. I have winter travel plans (not to Asia); how can I reduce my risk of infection?
No matter where Canadians plan to travel, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that they consult travel.gc.ca, which is the Government of Canada’s official source of destination‑specific travel information. It provides important advice to help travellers make informed decisions and travel safely while abroad.
Canadians should always tell their health care providers about their travel if they become ill after returning to Canada.
19. I am a Canadian travelling abroad and I am experiencing symptoms. What should I do?
Many Canadians become ill and require medical assistance when they are outside Canada. If you get sick when you are travelling, here’s how to get help:
- Most major tourist hotels have in-house doctors who can provide medical care. Hotels can also arrange appointments with local physicians.
- If you have travel insurance, contact the local number you may have been given or the assistance centre in Canada, and ask for a referral.
- If you need urgent care, the best option is often the nearest hospital. In some countries, ambulances may not be common. Use whatever form of transportation you have to get to a hospital.
- If you have a medical emergency while abroad, consular officials at the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate can help.
Find out more on what to do if you experience sickness or an injury while travelling abroad.
20. The Travel Health Notice says it is a Level 3. What does that mean?
A Level 3 signifies that it is recommended that Canadian travellers avoid non-essential travel in order to protect the health of Canadian travellers and the Canadian public.
The notice outlines specific precautions to take when visiting the region and what to do if you become ill during or after travel.
A notice at this level is often issued during a large-scale outbreak in a large geographic area, or if there is increased risk to the traveller and an increased risk of spreading disease to other groups including the Canadian public.
Learn more about the different risk levels associated with travel health notices.
21. Why has the health advice for passengers who were on the MS Westerdam cruise ship and who enter into Canada changed from self-isolation to monitoring for symptoms?
Based on recent evidence, and what we know about the health of the passengers from the MS Westerdam cruise ship, there is no indication that individuals on the ship were exposed to COVID-19.
As a result, the Government of Canada is requesting that passengers self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) and contact their local public health authority if they develop symptoms.
Government of Canada actions
22. What actions are being taken at Canadian airports and borders to stop COVID-19 from entering Canada?
New measures have been implemented at the 10 Canadian airports. Measures help to:
- identify any travellers returning to Canada who may be ill
- raise awareness among travellers about what they should do if they become sick
Any travellers coming to Canada who may have been in the province of Hubei would typically enter Canada through 1 of 3 international airports: Vancouver, Toronto, or Montréal.
Travellers going through these airports will see additional signage in French, English and Simplified Chinese, asking them to alert a border services officer should they have any flu-like symptoms.
Travellers will need to respond to a screening question that has been added to electronic kiosks for all international travellers at these airports. This question is available in 15 different languages.
Travellers who do not show signs or symptoms of illness will receive a handout advising them to follow up with their health care provider and provide:
- their symptoms
- their travel history
- any high-risk exposure history (such as contact with animals or close contact with a sick person) if they develop symptoms
These measures complement routine traveller screening procedures already in place to prepare for, detect and respond to the spread of serious infectious diseases into and within Canada.
23. In which 10 airports have the additional screening measures been implemented?
Additional screening measures were put in place at the Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal international airports on January 22, 2020. As of February 1, 2020, the additional measures are also in place at the following airports:
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport
- Winnipeg Richardson International Airport
- Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
- Ottawa International Airport
- Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport
24. Will Canada close its borders or start banning flights from China?
No. The Government of Canada and the provinces and territories have multiple systems in place to prepare for, detect and respond to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in Canada.
We are also aware that China has taken extraordinary measures including conducting exit screenings, and have closed all the flights and transportation from Wuhan and some other affected cities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been engaged and is actively monitoring the situation. With the information currently available for COVID-19, the WHO advises that measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions of international traffic.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: