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COVID-19 guide: The dos and don'ts of self-isolation
VANCOUVER -- For weeks, health officials have been recommending people go into self-isolation for 14 days if they develop flu-like symptoms, or have just returned from the countries most affected by COVID-19.
On Friday, the country's top doctor broadened that recommendation by advising anyone returning from anywhere abroad to self-isolate.
"All travellers coming to Canada must continue to self-monitor for symptoms upon their return," said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer. "We're also asking all travellers from outside Canada to consider self-isolation as an additional precaution."
What are the steps of self-isolation?
Health officials stress it's important to prevent contact with others by avoiding workplaces, schools and public areas.
They recommend friends and family drop off food and supplies at the door, or use delivery services for groceries and meals.
If the person in self-isolation lives with others, it is advised they should stay in another home if possible, especially if other members of the household have a compromised immune system or chronic health conditions.
If it's not possible to find another accommodation, stay and sleep in a room with good airflow that's away from others, and use a separate bathroom if possible.
For those living in apartments or condos with shared spaces, such as laundry suites, health experts say it's still possible to enter those areas if you're asymptomatic but best to go at a time when there isn’t anyone around.
"It's about being very careful with how you interaction with others," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial public health officer. "The big thing is to limit your interactions with others to limit that risk."
To stop the spread of germs, the BC Centre for Disease Control suggests wearing a face mask when around others, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands, avoid sharing household items, flushing the toilet with the lid down, and disinfecting common areas once a day.
No enforcement for self-isolation
While government officials are pushing for self-isolation, they aren't currently doing anything to enforce the advice.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said for now, the government is relying on the honour system and social conscience.
"Our objective is to direct people that this is the best course of action for themselves and for the community and we hope people will comply," Horgan said Friday. "Let's do the right thing, not just for ourselves, but for our community, our province and our country."
But if it's necessary, Horgan said the province's public health officer does have the authority to enforce self-isolation on the public.
"We don't have a treatment for this. We don't have a vaccine for this," Dr. Henry said. "The best we can do is keeping people away from others during that incubation. We want people to stay for others so as soon as they develop symptoms, they're not passing it along to anyone else."
Isolation without paid sick leave
Because not all employees can work remotely, the BC Federation of Labour is concerned some people are being forced to choose between their health and their wages.
"Some workers may have sick coverage, sick pay, but many, many thousands of workers don't have that coverage," says Laird Cronk, president of the BCFL.
Earlier this week, the Trudeau government relaxed restrictions on employment insurance payments by waiving the waiting period for benefits for people who take time off work and self-isolate due to illness.
Cronk says despite that move, there are still many employees who won't be able to receive employment insurance.
"The difficulty is there are still a lot of barriers, so a lot of workers won't have access to that. You would need to have worked 600 hours in the last 52 weeks to get that coverage; if you're self-employed, you would've needed to register for that a year ago," he explains.
Horgan agrees that the rules should be further relaxed to help contract workers and those without sick days.
"We want to ensure the federal government expands these programs to the greatest extent as possible," he said.