VANCOUVER -- Health officials in B.C. have unveiled a new online questionnaire designed to help people determine if they might be carrying the novel coronavirus – and if so, what they should do next.

The COVID-19 symptom self-assessment website was quietly launched on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website on Monday night, and has already been used more than half a million times.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the tool helps people determine whether they need to be tested for COVID-19, including those who are already in self-isolation at home and feeling concerned as they develop mild symptoms.

“We don’t think most people do,” she added. “What we need you to do when you’re sick is to stay home and stay away from others until you’re feeling better.”

But nervousness and uncertainty have led many people to seek advice in recent days. B.C.’s health care information line, 811, was so inundated with calls over the weekend that some people were receiving an automated message telling them: “The customer you have dialled is not available.”

According to the government, 811 operators answered more than 10,000 calls over the span of just three days last week.

In response, B.C. also set up a new toll-free number at 1-888-COVID19 just for people seeking non-medical information on the virus, such as travel recommendations and advice on social distancing.

The new self-assessment website begins by asking people if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe difficulty breathing (e.g. struggling to breathe or speaking in single words)
  • Severe chest pain
  • Having a very hard a time waking up
  • Feeling confused
  • Losing consciousness

Answering in the affirmative ends the questionnaire and directs people to call 911 or head to an emergency department immediately.

Depending on the answers people give throughout, they can be advised to call 811 for help, to stay home, or, if their responses indicate they have no COVID-19 symptoms, to simply self-monitor.

On Tuesday, British Columbia announced its largest single-day jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began, increasing from 103 to 186 infections.

There have also been seven deaths, six of which are linked to the ongoing outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Home in North Vancouver.