The information on this page is intended to be used for general information only, and should not replace consultation with healthcare professionals. Please speak with a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions.

For urgent medical advice, please contact your family doctor, or speak to a nurse at HealthLink BC by dialling 8-1-1. In the event of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

To help our community stay informed about the COVID-19 outbreak, we have gathered information from public health agencies and credible sources on everything you need to know about the coronavirus and how to stay safe.

Click through the sections on this page to read our answers to each question. If you have a question about COVID-19 we haven't answered below, please contact Jovana Vranic, Marketing & Communications Senior Coordinator, at

About the outbreak

What is the coronavirus?

In late 2019, a novel coronavirus was discovered to be infecting people in the Hubei province of China.

Coronaviruses are a family of related viruses that mostly infect mammals. There are seven types known to infect humans. Most human coronaviruses cause common colds, but three — COVID-19, SARS, and MERS — have been shown to cause more serious respiratory (lung) infections.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic in origin, meaning they come from animals.

Read more from the World Health Organization.

Why is it called COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are named after the “corona” or crown/halo that is seen around them when viewed through an electron microscope. The corona that is seen is actually the virus’ outer coating — a membrane of fat-like material that is studded with spiky-looking proteins. These spiky proteins allow the virus to stick to and enter human cells.

COVID-19 (short for Coronavirus Disease 2019) is the name of the disease caused by this novel coronavirus. The virus itself is called SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). This coronavirus is different, but related to, the virus that caused the SARS epidemic.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms associated with COVID-19 are fever, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion. For about 80% of people, symptoms are classified as mild — this includes anything less than, or up to, mild pneumonia.

Globally, asymptomatic persons seem to account for approximately 40% to 45% of coronavirus infections (source). Some individuals can carry the virus for an extended period (sometimes over 2 weeks) without showing any symptoms. This is why it is critical for everyone to follow recommended guidelines, including wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing in public.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help you determine whether you need medical attention. Read more about precautions you can take under the section "What to do if you are sick".

Why is COVID-19 such a big deal?

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.

Because COVID-19 is so new, we know very little about it. We also don’t have any treatment, cure, or vaccine for the virus at this time.

While most cases are mild, about 20% of cases are more severe and require hospitalization. Current estimates put the death rate of the virus from about 1-4% of infected people.

There is also a concern about our medical system and hospitals being able to handle a large influx of patients. If too many people are infected with the virus in a short period of time, there will be more people who need hospital beds than there are available. This could mean that doctors would be unable to provide care to otherwise treatable patients if hospitals were not so busy.

For more information, read Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The coronavirus spreads from person to person, through droplets released from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. You can contract the virus if you breathe in these droplets, or by touching infected objects or surfaces, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

It is possible to contract the virus even from those who have little or no symptoms of COVID-19. This is why it is important to practice social distancing, and when necessary, self-isolate. Learn more by reading "What is social distancing, and how do I practice it?" under How to stay safe, and "Do I need to self-isolate?" under What to do if you feel sick.

To date, there is no evidence of this virus being transmitted through the air.


How to stay safe

What precautions can I take?

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, there is still no cure, viral treatment, or vaccine for the virus. Any claims you see about treatments or cures are hoaxes or scams.

Doctors can treat coronavirus patients with fluids to prevent dehydration. They can also provide medication to reduce fevers and, in severe cases, provide supplemental oxygen for those who are having trouble breathing.

The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting the coronavirus is to wash your hands and practice social distancing.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Here is a great video on how to properly wash your hands
  • If you do not have access to soap and clean water, you can use hand sanitizer to clean your hands, as long as it contains and least 50% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face. The virus can enter your body through your mucus membranes (in your eyes, mouth, and nose).
  • Maintain at least 6 feet (2 metres) of distance from anyone you don't live with, at all times.
  • Avoid leaving the house other than to get groceries and medication, for outdoor exercise, or fresh air. If you do need to leave the house, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and avoid high-traffic areas.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible. Try to shop, visit the pharmacy, or run other errands at off-peak times whenever you can.

If you are older than 65, have a compromised immune system, or have a chronic condition, it may be advisable to avoid unnecessary social contact and maintain 6 feet/2 metres between yourself and other individuals outside your home.

What is social distancing, and how do I practice it?

Social distancing is a means to breaking the chains of transmission for COVID-19. Public health authorities around the globe, including our provincial and federal governments, are urging people to stay home and limit all non-essential interactions.

To ensure your safety, and the safety of others, you should maintain distance between yourself and others. You do not have to isolate yourself from people you live with — people who live together can interact normally.

Even if you are healthy, you can contract the coronavirus and transfer it to others before showing any symptoms. Social distancing will help both to keep you healthy, and keep others from contracting the virus from you if you are carrying it without knowing.

When practicing social distancing, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • stay home unless you must leave for necessities — these include grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, or going to essential medical appointments
  • when in public, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (or 2 metres) from others
  • avoid greetings like handshakes or hugs — greet with a wave instead
  • if you need to shop or take public transportation, try to do so during off-peak hours
  • going for coffee with friends or hosting gatherings is not considered social distancing, even if you maintain a 6 foot distance from one another

If you get coronavirus while practicing social distancing, the only people you can pass it on to it are your family members. If they are also practicing social distancing, the virus may spread around your house, but it will not be able to get outside and infect other people.

Additional resources:

Because public health authorities across British Columbia and Canada are urging for people to practice social distancing, we have recommended that all support groups cancel their meetings or move them to either a teleconference or webinar format. Any modifications to meetings will be communicated here.

Will the pneumonia vaccine protect me from COVID-19?

The pneumonia vaccine is for bacterial pneumonia, not viral pneumonia. It will not protect against getting COVID-19. However, the vaccine could potentially protect against more serious repercussion from contracting COVID-19. Ask your physician or pharmacist about the vaccine if you are interested.

Please keep social distancing in mind. It is best to call your physician and pharmacists to ask for their advice on the vaccine before going in person, especially if you are at elevated risk from COVID-19.

Are there any drugs that can prevent or treat COVID-19?

To date, there have been no drugs or therapies shown to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. Several drugs are being tested as potential treatments, but there is not enough data to say whether or not they work. These drugs have serious side effects and can be deadly if taken improperly.

Scientists around the world are working to develop and test a vaccine against the virus SARS-CoV-2 as quickly as possible. Typically, it can take over 10 years to approve a vaccine for market, but this process has been fast-tracked for COVID-19. Currently, Canada has at least seven vaccine candidates in development registered with the WHO (source). Still, it may take as long as several years for a vaccine to be approved for the public.

Please consult your healthcare team before taking any new medications.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself from catching COVID-19?

Dr. Theresa Tam, the top doctor of the Public Health Agency of Canada, has stated that "wearing a non-medical mask is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you." While medical-grade masks such as the N95 should only be reserved for medical professionals, there is no harm in using makeshift masks out of t-shirts or cotton sheets for an added layer of protection. 

If you are sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend you wear a mask. Please follow the instructions of your healthcare team.

Masks are more effective at keeping virus in than they are at keeping it out. If you are sick, a mask can act as a barrier, preventing tiny droplets of fluid that may contain the virus from spreading when you cough or sneeze.

How can I safely buy groceries during a pandemic?

Retail food and grocery stores fall under BC's list of COVID-19 essential services. Physical distancing measures enacted by the BC Government, such as limiting the numbers of individuals in each store along with marking to indicate proper distancing, have been placed to ensure the safety of shoppers community and retail workers. 

Public health officials across Canada are advising the public to stay home as much as possible. It is important to try to shop for groceries only once a week or less, and to only send one person from your household to go shopping each time you need groceries.

Many stores have designated the first hour of the day to seniors and individuals with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, including those with Parkinson's disease. Try to make your trip to the store outside of peak hours to avoid crowds. To ensure a fast and safe trip to the grocery store, make a list of what you need. Do your best to keep two metres between you and others at all times, have a plan to return home as soon as possible, and only buy what you need.

It is unlikely the virus can last on groceries after they've been refrigerated for a day or two. Health experts do not think it is necessary to clean all of your groceries when you get home.

However, it is important to wash your hands after touching a shopping cart handle, paying, packing up your groceries, and putting them away once you return home.

More information on health experts' tips for grocery shopping can be found here.

How can I safely use public transportation?

All private and public transportation services remain open under BC's list of essential servicesHowever, if you are sick, please follow the advice of health professionals and stay home. 

BC Transit and Translink are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with regional health authorities to ensure the best practices are introduced to prevent the spread of the virus. Enhanced cleaning, rear door loading, limiting passagenger capacity, and suspention of fare collection are some of the measures BC's public transportation system has implemented.

Please note, due to physical distancing requirements, bus operators will not be able to assist those in wheelchairs with being strapped in a front-facing position on conventional buses. Buses that have a rear-facing accesible seat will allow those with mobility devices to park in a designated area and secure themselves in. If possible, ensure your carepartner is available to travel with you for your assistance.

Whie using public transportation, remember to:

  • Board through the rear door where available. (The front door is still available for those requiring the accessibility features including the ramp).
  • Leave plenty of time for your transit journey to practice proper physical distancing.
  • Stand behind the red line to give your driver space.
  • Be courteous to your fellow riders.
  • Move around the bus to an open space if available.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene, cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.

For more information, visit BC Transit, Translink, and BC's guide on travel affected by COVID-19

Is it safe for my house cleaner to continue working in my home during this time?

If you can avoid having a house cleaner or anyone who doesn’t live with you in your home, you should. Even if people are not feeling sick, they may be able to spread the virus. You increase your risk and the risk to everyone you come into contact with by allowing people into your home.

Anyone over the age of 65 or living with chronic conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, is at a higher risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19 and should do their best to avoid contact with people outside of their household.

If it is unavoidable and you need to have someone come into your house, do your best to maintain distance from them. Go on a socially-distancing walk while they are in your house, or stay in separate rooms with the door closed.


Considerations for people with Parkinson's

Am I more at risk of COVID-19 as a person with Parkinson’s or carepartner?

This virus is too new for there to be any data on the specifics of COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease. However, there is a known increased risk for more severe outcomes for:

  • older adults (60+)
  • people with compromised immune systems
  • people with preexisting chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or diabetes.

To date, there is no evidence to suggests that people with the above chronic conditions are more likely to contract this coronavirus, only that they are at an increased risk of developing severe illness if they catch it.

There is still not enough evidence to say how COVID-19 interacts with Parkinson’s disease, though a recent study found that COVID-19 may worsen some symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as motor performance (increasing daily "off" times), fatigue, and urinary urgency/incontinence (source). However, COVID-19 is a very new disease and though scientists around the world are working around the clock to learn as much as they can, it will take time for a clearer picture of COVID-19 to be developed. 

It is important you continue to receive your regular medical care for Parkinson’s disease. Check with your healthcare team about future appointments. If you have symptoms of a respiratory illness (fever, cough, sore throat, feeling unwell), please call your healthcare team ahead of any appointments so they can prepare to ensure everyone’s safety.

There is still insufficient evidence to suggest people who are pregnant are at a greater risk of serious outcome of COVID-19. However, it is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses and take the appropriate steps to avoid and prevent infection.

For carepartners of people with Parkinson’s, the government of Canada has outlined the best measures on how to care for a loved one who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Those guidelines can be found here.

Learn more about COVID-19 and chronic conditions in BC here.

How do I get the medicine I need to manage my Parkinson’s disease?

It is important that you prepare by having a supply of any daily medications you take for Parkinson’s disease or any other chronic conditions. If possible, keeping a two-week supply of your medication is encouraged, in case you may need to self-quarantine. Read more about self-quarantine under What to do if you feel sick.

You may contact your pharmacists to see if you can order more of your medication without physically going in. Your pharmacist may also be able to deliver medication. 

If you are feeling unwell and require medications, please do not visit your pharmacy. Instead, call your pharmacy, and they will arrange to safely provide you any medications you may need.

Please speak to your physician and pharmacist with any specific questions you have about your medical care.

We are not aware of any Parkinson’s drug shortages caused by the outbreak of coronavirus. You can monitor drug shortages in Canada at

Is it safe for people with Parkinson's to use over-the-counter cold and flu medicine?

Certain cold and flu medications can interact with Parkinson's drugs, or cause unwanted side effects that exacerbate Parkinson's symptoms. Speak to your doctor and/or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter drugs.

Here are some potential concerns for people with Parkinson's:

  • Dextromethorphan and cyclobenzaprine are common ingredients used in cough suppressants. These can interact with MAO-B inhibitors such as selegiline, rasagiline, and safinamide.
    • Meperidine (Demerol), methadone, tramadol, and St. John's wort can also have an effect on these Parkinson's drugs.
  • Pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, and phenylpropanolamine are common in cold and flu medication. These can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke.
  • Some medications — either on their own or taken alongside Parkinson's drugs — can cause excessive drowsiness or sedation. These include codeine and antihistamines, pain medications like meperidine, Sudafed, anticholinergics (Trihexyphenidyl, Benadryl, Cogentin, Parsitan, and others), or antihistamines. These drugs can also cause cognitive and memory issues.
  • NSAIDs like aspirin and acetaminophen can have gastrointestinal side effects.

For more information, read this blog post from the Parkinson's Foundation.


What to do if you feel sick

If I feel sick, do I need to get tested?

BC's government and public health agencies recommend a self-assessment for COVID-19. The BC Ministry of Health developed an online self-assessment tool that can be accessed here. The tool will walk you through a series of questions and will provide guidance on what you should do.

Not everyone with symptoms needs to be tested for COVID-19. Those who should be tested include people with respiratory symptoms (see "What are the symptoms of COVID-19?" under About the outbreak) who are:

  • Hospitalized, or likely to be hospitalized
  • Healthcare workers
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • Part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak

People who have no symptoms, or symptoms that can be self-managed at home, do not need to be tested.

People with Advanced Parkinson's or other high-risk conditions may fall under the category of "likely to be hospitalized." If you are experiencing symptoms, and worried about your condition, please self-isolate for 14 days and self-monitor your symptoms. Contact your doctor, or speak to a nurse at 8-1-1 if you notice any changes. In the event of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately.

For information on self-monitoring, see this infographic from the BC Centre for Disease Control. For more on self-isolation, see below under "What is self-isolation? Do I need to self-isolate?".

Do I need to self-isolate?

Self-isolation, or self-quarantine, means avoiding all situations where you could infect other people, helping to prevent the spread of infections. Read more from the BC Centre for Disease Control. 

Viruses have an incubation period between the time you are first exposed and when you start to feel sick. It is possible to spread the virus during this time, even if you don’t feel sick. 

If you believe you may have been exposed to coronavirus, or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you should self-isolate. This means you should stay at home, not go to work or school, avoid social gatherings, and monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days.

Anyone returning to Canada from abroad, including the US, must self-isolate for 14 days.

If you need to self-isolate and live with others, follow these guidelines whenever possible:

  • try to stay and sleep in a separate room with good airflow, away from housemates
  • wear a surgical or procedural mask, and maintain a 6-foot distance if you are in the same room as others
  • use a separate bathroom if you have one, and always flush the toilet with the lid down
  • avoid all face-to-face contact with others, and have someone leave food and drinks outside your room

If these guidelines are not possible for you and your housemates, you can self-isolate together and avoid contact with those outside of your household. Do not leave the house unless absolutely necessary — try ordering food and household items for delivery if needed, and only go outside if travelling to medical appointments.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen to manage my symptoms?

Based on the current information available, it is safe to take ibuprofen (Advil) if you are feeling unwell. See this graphic from the World Health Organization.

If you feel unwell, or are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, you can call your doctor for advice or call Call 8-1-1 to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC. In the event of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately.

I have a cold or flu that isn't COVID-19. How can I self-manage at home during this time?

Your immune system will fight off most colds and flus within a week or two. While there is very little you can do to get rid of the illness itself, there are several ways you can treat its symptoms. Here are some ways to self-manage at home:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Keep well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids. Sports drinks and juice, which have lots of electrolytes, can be especially helpful.
  • Use a humidifier or take a steamy shower to help clear your nose and sinuses, and get mucus moving.
  • Lozenges can help soothe a sore throat. Ice chips, throat sprays, and hard candies may also be soothing.
  • You can also try a saltwater gargle for your throat. Take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt and dissolve it in an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Gargle for a few seconds, then spit.
  • Sip on warm liquids like soup broth, tea, or warm apple juice.

If you have a cold or flu, you should self-isolate even if it's not COVID-19. While sick, your immune system is compromised, and you may be more prone to infection with the virus.


Support and resources

What happens if I lose my job, have my hours reduced, or can’t work?

There have been recent and ongoing updates from the Government on Canada to provide financial support to businesses and individuals who are impacted by the pandemic. For the most up to date information, please visit Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada.

Employment Insurance (EI) has made several changes to support those in need, including:

  • Waiving the one-week waiting period to apply
  • Developing a dedicated, toll-free number: 1-833-381-2725
  • People claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine do not have to provide a medical certificate 

For more information, read these articles:

  • Trudeau unveils $82bn in aid for families, business amid coronavirus uncertainty | Global News
  • Coronavirus: Canadian employment insurance to be expanded in new stimulus package | Global News
  • How to apply for EI and COVID-19 emergency benefits | CBC News

What happens if I am sick or quarantined, and unable to work?

For workers who do not have paid sick leave, and who are quarantined at home due to illness, or as caregivers, the Canadian government has introduced the Emergency Care Benefit. Those who are sick or quarantined, and do not qualify for EI benefits, may be eligible to receive up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks.

For more information, please visit:

I am a senior in need of assistance during the outbreak. What supports are available to me?

A COVID-19 working group in the provincial government collaborated with BC Seniors' Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, to work on expanding support services for older adults, who are at higher risk for complications caused by COVID-19. On March 26, they announced an expansion of the United Way's bc211 program, an information and referral service, to connect seniors with volunteers who can support them during the outbreak.

If you are over 65 and looking for non-medical support, or a volunteer who would like to participate, you can fill in this form. Volunteers can help seniors by:

  • shopping for and delivering groceries
  • preparing and delivering meals
  • picking up and delivering prescriptions
  • making friendly visits over the phone, video chat, etc.

What supports are available to renters and landlords during the outbreak?

The BC Government is introducing a temporary rental supplement to support renters and landlords who have been financially affected as a result of COVID-19. The program has been available since April 2020, and will continue to accept applicants until August 31 2020.

The new rental supplement is offering up to $500 a month and is paid directly to landlords towards rent, providing landlords and renters support for rental income during the outbreak. The province The province has halted evictions and enacted a rent freeze, but these provisions are set to lift before September 01, 2020. The province is introducing a repayment plan framework to give tenants reasonable time to pay back rent they may owe from the emergency period. Landlords cannot charge any late fees for unpaid rent during the emergency period, and tenants cannot be issued a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent during the emergency period, unless the tenant has defaulted on the repayment plan (source).

Renters with low to moderate incomes who are experiencing financial challenges due to COVID-19, and do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs, are eligible for the temporary rental supplement.

More information and a full list of immediate measures enacted by BC to aid renters and landlords can be found here.

What financial support is available to people on disability assistance and low-income seniors?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), provides financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians who have been affected by COVID-19.The benefit provides a $2,000 payment for a 4-week period for up to 24 weeks. Applications are now open online with CRA My Account, or over the phone with an automated phone service at 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041.

To be eligible to apply, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You reside in Canada
  • You have stopped or will stop working due to reasons related to COVID-19
  • For at least 14 days in a row for the period you are applying for, you will not receive:
    • employment income
    • self-employment income
    • provincial or federal benefits related to maternity or paternity leave

If you do not qualify for CERB or EI, the BC Government is implementing a series of temporary support for the province's most vulnerable, including low-income seniors and those on disability assistance. BC will provide a $300-monthly COVID-19 crisis supplement for three months to those on income assistance, disability assisance, comforts allowance, and BC Senior's supplement, without any reduction to these existing monthly payments.

Do I still have to pay my taxes during the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, but the Government has taken steps to reduce the stress and burden placed on people during tax season.

Individual tax filing due dates has been extended until June 1, 2020. Payment for 2019 taxes have been extended and are now due September 1, 2020.

Self-employed individuals and their spouses or common-law partners have not had their filing date extended. Filing is still due by June 15, 2020. Payments are due September 1, 2020.

In addition to extending tax filing and payment deadlines, the Government has also issued a one-time supplementary GST/HST credit. These payments started issuing April 9, 2020. This payment doubles the maximum annual GST/HST credit for the 2019-2020 benefit year. If you filed a 2018 tax return, you should automatically receive the benefit via mail or direct deposit. The income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for individuals and close to $600 for couples.

The Government has also increased the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) amount by $300/child for the 2019-2020 benefit year. You should receive this with your May payment if you qualify.

Finally, the minimum withdrawal requirement for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) has been reduced by 25% for 2020. This provides additional flexibility to seniors who may have to liquidated RRIF assists to meet minimum requirements.

Tax collection activities on new debts will be suspended until further notice, and flexible payment arrangements will be available.

For more information, visit the CRA's website. For information about your account, log into your MyCRA account.

What if I can't make my mortgage payments because of COVID-19?

Many Canadian banks have committed to work with their customers on a case-by-case basis to find a way to manage financial hardships caused by COVID-19. 

Banks may defer up to six months of mortgage payments (both interest and principal) for borrows who have been impacted by COVID-19. Contact your bank to discuss flexibility on your mortgage. You can also visit your bank's website or call for the latest information.

For more information, visit your financial institution's website or visit the Department of Finance website.


Additional Resources 


BC Centre for Disease Control

BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool

Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

COVID-19 Hotline: Call 1-888-COVID19 for non-medical information.

HealthLink BC: Call 8-1-1 to talk to a nurse for guidance and advice.

Public Health Agency of Canada


Centres for Disease Control: Frequently Asked Questions

World Health Organization