Coronavirus in Canada: how to get tested, what the symptoms are, where to get help

A province-by-province breakdown of advice, requirements and who to call if you think you might have it, along with information on who is most vulnerable

NOTE: This post was originally published on March 12, and is being updated frequently with the most recent information from official federal and provincial sources. Because events are changing quickly, we are drawing not only from government websites but also Twitter feeds, press conferences and other sources. Last update was Tuesday, March 31 at 12 p.m.

In addition to all provinces having declared emergencies to deal with the coronavirus, cities are now doing the same. On March 23,  Toronto declared a municipal emergency. It won’t be the last municipality to do so. In addition to checking this post for the latest federal and provincial guidance, Maclean’s recommends that readers check their own municipal websites for specific local information.

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 of the World Health Organization (WHO), which published a preliminary report on the outbreak in China. Sources are noted throughout.

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

An important note: this information is frequently revised and updated by 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 skip directly to information and instructions for your home province on this post, follow the applicable link below:

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories



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%)

March 31 at 9 a.m update: According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, commonly reported symptoms among confirmed cases in Canada include cough (79%), chills (56%) and headaches (55%).

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?

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). Staff in some jurisdictions, especially large cities, may direct you to special assessment centres set up for COVID-19 testing. 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.

How many Canadians have COVID-19?

As of March 31 at 9 a.m., there were 7,448 cases in Canada: B.C. (970), Alberta (690), Saskatchewan (176), Manitoba (96), Ontario (1,706), Quebec (3,430), New Brunswick (68), Nova Scotia (127), Prince Edward Island (18), Newfoundland (148), Yukon (5), the Northwest Territories (1) and repatriated travellers (13), per daily federal and provincial updates.

Of detailed data available on 3,427 cases:

  • 66 people have died of COVID-19
  • Of those cases, 9% of ill individuals were hospitalized, including 3% in the ICU
  • 30% were 60 years old or over
  • 38% were travellers or were close contacts of those travellers while 62% probably acquired COVID-19 in community settings

Federal government

Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

There is a virtual assistant option for those looking for information (click on small circular “headset and maple leaf” graphic).

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.



Stay at home as much as possible. All Canadians should be practising physical (social) distancing. Even if you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, you could become infected by others.

  • stay at home unless you have to go to work
    • talk to your employer about working at home if possible
  • avoid all non-essential trips in your community
  • do not gather in groups
  • limit contact with people at higher risk (e.g. older adults and those in poor health)
  • go outside to exercise but stay close to home
  • if you leave your home, always keep a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others
    • household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled in the last 14 days

You can go for a walk if you:

  • have not been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have not travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days

If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practise physical (social) distancing by keeping at least two metres apart from others at all times.

For Canadians who have recently travelled

The Government of Canada has put in place an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act that applies to all travellers arriving in Canada in order to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

Travellers with symptoms: mandatory isolation

If you have recently returned to Canada and you have symptoms, you must ISOLATE. This is mandatory. If required, immediate medical attention will be provided upon arrival in Canada.

Mandatory isolation means you MUST:

  • go directly to the place where you will isolate, without delay, and stay there for 14 days
  • go to your place of isolation using private transportation only, such as your personal vehicle
  • stay INSIDE your home
  • do not leave your place of isolation unless it is to seek medical attention
  • do not go to school, work, other public areas or use public transportation such as buses and taxis
  • stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom from others in your home, if possible
  • do not have visitors and limit contact with others in the place of isolation, including children
  • do not isolate in a place where you will have contact with vulnerable people, such as older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions
  • if your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health care provider or public health authority and follow their instructions

If you have symptoms but do not have a place to isolate, you will be required to isolate for 14 days in a facility designated by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.

Violating any instructions provided to you when you entered Canada could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.

Travellers without symptoms: mandatory quarantine

If you have recently returned to Canada and you have no symptoms, you must QUARANTINE (self-isolate) yourself. This is mandatory. You are at risk of developing symptoms and infecting others.

This means you MUST:

  • go directly to your place of quarantine, without delay, and stay there for 14 days
  • do not go to school, work, other public areas and community settings
  • monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19
  • arrange to have someone pick up essentials like groceries or medication for you
  • do not have visitors
  • stay in a private place like your yard or balcony if you go outside for fresh air
  • keep a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others

You can take public transportation to get to your place of self-isolation after you arrive in Canada, but practise physical (social) distancing at all times, and you must not stop on the way home.

Violating any instructions provided to you when you entered Canada could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.

If you develop symptoms within 14 days:

  • isolate yourself from others
  • immediately call a health care professional or public health authority and:
    • describe your symptoms and travel history
    • follow their instructions carefully

Check your exposure risk

Have you been on a flight, cruise or train, or at a public gathering? Check the listed exposure locations to see if you may have been exposed to COVID-19.

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 the BC Centre for Disease Control is here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

COVID-19 self-assessment app can be accessed here.

Getting help:

  • The province has created 1 888 COVID-19 to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments. 1 888 COVID-19 is available seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in 110 languages.
  • The 811 number is also in place for medical-related COVID-19 questions.


A detailed list of advice and measures is here.

On March 18, the province declared a state of emergency to support the COVID-19 response.

Provincial health officer orders that public and private health sector employers and long-term care facilities ensure employees work at only one facility to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Back to top ↑


Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help: If you recently returned from travel outside Canada or have symptoms—cough, fever, fatigue or difficulty breathing:


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 17, Alberta declared a public health emergency.

A list of businesses deemed essential services can be found here.

Vehicle access to provincial parks, parking lots and staging areas on public land has been suspended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, in addition to facilities that have been closed.

To protect the health and safety of Albertans, law enforcement agencies now have full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines for violations, including a mandatory 10-day self-isolation for people with symptoms that are not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition: cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat.


Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help:

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency is launching a dedicated, toll-free phone line for people who have general questions about the COVID-19 pandemic that are not health-specific.

The 1-855-559-5502 (for Regina residents: 306-787-8539) line will be staffed 16 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., by operators who will be able to answer questions or point people to information ranging from government services to travel restrictions.

If you fit the criteria of potential exposure, are exhibiting mild symptoms and suspect you may have COVID-19, you can obtain a referral to a community testing centre by phoning:

  1. HealthLine 811 (204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257)
  2. Your local Public Health Communicable Disease Control office.
  3. Your family physician.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 18, the Government of Saskatchewan declared a provincial State of Emergency, giving the government broad powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) will not be accepting applications for eviction related to missed or late rent, or for other non-urgent claims. Previous eviction orders for non-urgent matters (i.e. – not related to health and safety concerns) will not be enforced.

The government is releasing a comprehensive list of critical public services and business services that will be allowed to continue operating during the COVID-19 response and maintaining critical services to the public and industry to prevent supply chain disruption.

Back to top ↑


Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help: Contact Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) if you’re experiencing symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 20, the government declared a state of emergency.

The public is reminded that under The Public Health Act, the following measures will be in place, effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 30. Public gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people at any indoor or outdoor place or premises. This includes places of worship, gatherings and family events such as weddings and funerals. This does not apply to a facility where health care or social services are provided, including child care centres and homeless shelters. Retail businesses including grocery or food stores, shopping centres, pharmacies or gas stations must ensure separation of one to two metres between patrons assembling in the business. Public transportation facilities must also ensure that people assembling at the facility are reasonably able to maintain a separation of one to two metres.

Public health officials recommend that effective March 23, anyone who returns from international or domestic travel should self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following their return.

Back to top ↑


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

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

The self-assessment tool has been enhanced as of March 23. It provides the province with real-time data on the number and geography of users who are told to seek care, self-isolate or to monitor for symptoms. This data will help inform Ontario’s ongoing response in order to keep individuals and families safe.

The tool guides individuals through a series of questions and, based on their responses, users are provided clear direction on what action to take. Those people whose self-assessment shows they may have COVID-19 will be advised to call their primary care provider, who can conduct a virtual assessment by phone or other technology. People can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 (24/7), where they can speak to a health care professional about their symptoms.

Getting help:

Contact your primary care provider  orTelehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 if you’re experiencing symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 17, the government of Ontario has declared an emergency.

NEW: A new order closes all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities everywhere in Ontario, including but not limited to playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks, beaches, skateboard and BMX parks, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, park shelters, outdoor exercise equipment, condo parks and gardens, and other outdoor recreational amenities. Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others. Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves remain closed.

NEW: The government is temporarily deferring payments for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans. To support borrowers during this difficult period, loan repayments will be subject to a six-month interest-free moratorium until September 30, 2020.

Report an individual who is price gouging related to COVID-19 by filing a complaint at 1-800-889-9768 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, or by filing a report online.

The Ontario government has prohibited organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, effective immediately.

The Ontario government has announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province as 11:59 p.m. on March 24. A list of essential workplaces can be found here. 

Back to top ↑


Official site here.

Getting help:

  • If you are worried about COVID‑19 or display symptoms such as a cough or fever, you can call toll free 418-644-4545 in the Quebec City region, 514-644-4545 in the Montreal area and 1-877-644-4545 elsewhere in Quebec.
  • A new COVID-19 phone line has been established at 877-644-4545 to deal with calls relating to the coronavirus.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here, including a self-care guide.

On March 13, Quebec declared a health emergency.

NEW: Temporary changes for hours and days of opening for commercial establishments.

From Monday up to and including Saturday

Establishments targeted:

  • Grocery stores and other food stores
  • Establishments offering grocery store or drugstore services outside shopping centres
  • Drugstores
  • Changes

The establishments targeted can extend business hours beyond the legal periods, but only for the sale of:

  • food;
  • pharmaceutical, hygiene and health products.

There is no restriction on the number of employees present to ensure smooth operations in the establishments.

All Sundays in April all commercial establishments must be closed to the public, except:

  • Drugstores
  • Convenience stores
  • Service stations
  • Restaurants (drive-through orders, takeout and delivery services)
  • Grocery stores (online and telephone orders only, and home delivery)

All Quebecers are being asked to avoid travelling from one region to another or from one city to another, except where necessary. Such travel should be confined to trips for medical reasons and work when teleworking is not possible. To this end, to protect certain regions that are more vulnerable, checkpoints will be set up on main roads leading to the following regions and territories:

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent;
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue;
  • Côte-Nord;
  • Nord-du-Québec;
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean;
  • Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine;
  • Nunavik;
  • Cree Territory of James Bay.

Police officers at the checkpoints will limit travel into and out of the regions and only authorize essential travel.

The government has a portal for Government Assistance Programs for workers and residents who have lost income because of COVID-19.

The government has announced the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province as of the end of March 23. A complete list of essential services and commercial activities is here. Note that business can always engage in teleworking and e-commerce.

Back to top ↑

New Brunswick

Official site: here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help: Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can:

  • make a virtual appointment with their primary care provider; or;
  • call Tele-Care at 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse.

(If they require an in-person assessment, a referral will be provided to the Community Assessment Centre in their area. Note: those centres are not walk-in clinics.)


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 19, the government declared a state of emergency.

The government announced financial supports for workers and businesses, including bridging payments until federal benefits take effect. Details are here.

As of March 25, restrictions will be implemented for all travellers arriving in New Brunswick from outside the province. Interprovincial travellers, like international travellers, will need to self-isolate for 14 days. All unnecessary travel into New Brunswick is prohibited, and peace officers are authorized to turn away visitors when they attempt to enter.

Back to top ↑

Nova Scotia

Official site: here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help:

Getting help: To find out if you need to call 811, use the COVID-19 online self-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.)


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 22, Nova Scotia declared a provincial state of emergency

Gatherings and social distancing:

  • There are to be no social gatherings of more than 5 people.
  • Any workplace or business that is not deemed essential (or not already required to be closed) can remain open as long as a two-metre (6-foot) distance can be maintained.

Anyone who has travelled outside of Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days. If you have travelled outside of Nova Scotia, or been in close contact with someone who has travelled, and are experiencing fever or new cough, you should complete the online questionnaire before calling 811.

Back to top ↑

Prince Edward Island

Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help:

  • 811 – If you have COVID-19 symptoms, including a cough, fever or difficulty breathing.
  • 1-833-533-9333 – health questions, services for Islanders, business programs
  • 1-800-958-6400 – concerns that someone you know is not following the self-isolation directive.
  • View Government of PEI contact information for COVID-19.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

The province has declared a state of public health emergency.

The chief public health officer recommends that all Islanders who are self-isolating must now remain on their own property when outside. Those who live in apartment buildings must stay on the building’s property while outside.

New screening measures are in place at all entry points into the province—Confederation Bridge, Charlottetown Airport and Magdalen Ferry Terminal in Souris.

Islanders returning to Prince Edward Island from domestic or international travel must self-isolate for 14 days. Exceptions are being made for essential workers, including truck drivers, airline crews, essential public and private sector worker in critical sectors, as well as on compassionate grounds.

Back to top ↑

Newfoundland and Labrador

Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

NEW: Mental health and wellness services are available here.

Getting help:

For anyone having issues or concerns regarding self-isolation, please call the Canadian Red Cross COVID-19 help line at 1-800-863-6582, available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Contact 811 if you develop a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 18, the Minister of Health and Community Services declared COVID-19 a public health emergency.

Anyone arriving to the province from outside of Newfoundland and Labrador on or after March 20, 2020 is required to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. A person found in breach of these orders could face a fine or jail time. A corporation found in breach of these orders could face a fine of $5,000 to $50,000.

Back to top ↑


Official site here.

COVID-19 self-assessment tool here.

Getting help: phone 811 or your health provider (Do not go to an emergency department, family doctor, walk-in clinic or your local health centre without calling 811 first).


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 18, the government declared a public health emergency.

Non-essential travel outside of territory and into rural Yukon. We advise that:

  • people do not travel to or from Yukon;
  • Yukoners outside of the territory return home, now; and
  • people do not travel to Yukon’s rural communities.
  • Advice for all travellers
  • Self-isolation



Anyone arriving by air or road has to self-isolate for 14 days, including travel from:

  • within Canada;
  • the US (Alaska); and
  • overseas

Northwest Territories

Official site here.

Getting help: For questions on self-isolation and travel restrictions, contact or call 1-833-378-8297. Tell your health care provider if you have symptoms.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 18, the government declared a territory-wide Public Health Emergency under the Northwest Territories Public Health Act

The NWT Chief Public Health Officer has prohibited all travel into the NWT by non-residents. Import/export workers are, however, exempted from the travel ban.

If you develop fever, cough, or other flu-like symptoms during this time period, contact the following:

  • Yellowknife: 867-767-9120
  • Inuvik: 867-490-2225
  • Fort Smith: 867-872-6219 or 867-872-6221
  • Hay River: 867-874-7201 (8:30 to 16:30). After hours, please contact the Emergency Department at 867-874-8050.
  • For all other communities, see

They will talk with you about your symptoms, and advise you what to do next. Do not go in without calling.

Back to top ↑


Official site here.

Getting help: call your local health centre.


A detailed list of advice and measures being introduced, as well as advice to travellers and other resources is here.

On March 18, the government declared a public health emergency.

Strict travel restrictions to Nunavut is in place. Only residents and critical workers can travel into the territory. Everyone except critical workers with written permission from the Chief Public Health Officer must be in a mandatory 14-day isolation period in the south before they can board a plane to come to Nunavut. This includes residents and students.

Ongoing health services:

  • Access to health care services will remain available in all communities seven days a week.
  • All non-urgent requests will be triaged daily.
  • Immediate access to urgent and emergent health care services are and will continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • In Iqaluit, public health, the emergency room and inpatient unit will remain open.

All public gatherings are now banned, and all playgrounds and municipal parks are now closed.

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.

  • Please call before going to your health centre, if it is a non-emergency. You will be assessed by phone.
  • For Iqaluit, for non-emergency situations, it’s the same thing—please call before going to the Qikiqtani General Hospital.
  • For all communities, for non-emergency situations please call first before coming to the health centre. You will be assessed by phone.
  • Physicians will continue community visits.
  • Mental health supports are available.