How to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic

Last revised on March 26, 2020.

Follow Ottawa Public Health on Twitter or Facebook to receive notification of updates regarding the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has released a video featuring the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, to advise how employees can prepare for a pandemic situation. OPH has also produced a special website on how to prepare for a pandemic situation.

As cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to spread internationally, it is becoming more likely that we will see worldwide spread of the virus. Canada and other countries are focusing on the containment of COVID-19. This virus has become a pandemic. Although there are currently not many cases in Canada, this could change very rapidly. According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease where most people do not have immunity. In other words, a pandemic refers to the geographic spread of a virus, not its severity.

There are things you can do to prepare for this pandemic, and ensure you are prepared in case you or someone in your house becomes ill.

Get ready

Download Pandemic Preparedness Checklist for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Stock up on non-perishable foods gradually over the next few weeks.
  • Fill prescriptions and stock up over-the-counter medications.
    • Don’t wait to fill essential prescriptions.
    • Fill prescriptions for an extra month if you’re able.
    • Get refills with enough notice so that you do not run out of medication you may need.
    • Purchase over-the-counter pain/fever medications.
  • Make plans for your children or other dependents in case you may be sick.
  • Stock up on supplies for your pets.
  • Stock up on cleaning supplies.
  • Ensure you have adequate sanitary/hygiene supplies.
  • Make preparations within your office. Support each other.

 List of essential supplies

  • Fresh veggies with a longer shelf life like beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnip, potatoes, yams, cabbage, squash, onions
  • Fresh fruit with a longer shelf life: apples, melon, oranges, grapefruit.
  • Frozen vegetables and fruit, canned vegetables and fruit, dried fruit, applesauce, tomato sauce, 100% vegetable and fruit juice
  • Grains like rice, couscous, quinoa, bread (with a longer shelf life), tortillas, pasta, cold dry and hot cereals, bread rusks, crackers
  • Frozen and canned meat and fish, soup, stews
  • Yogurt, eggs, hard cheese, non-refrigerated milk and plant-based beverages, milk powder, evaporated milk
  • Canned and dried beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, nut butters
  • Flour, oil, butter or margarine, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, jam/honey, sugar, granola bars, cookies, bouillon cubes, spices, condiments
  • Infant formula (if applicable)
  • Meal replacements (if taken for specific medical conditions)
  • Pet food and supplies


  • Pain and fever medicine (Ibuprofen and acetaminophen)
  • If possible, fill your prescriptions for an extra month
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements (if applicable)

Sanitary/hygiene supplies

  • Hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, bleach
  • Toilet paper, diapers, female hygiene products, tissues, wipes, toothpaste
  • Laundry detergent, dish soap, garbage bags, nitrate/latex gloves
  • Surgical masks (facemask) for those who are infected or taking care of the ill
  • Floor cleaner, mop and bucket, toilet cleaner

Limit the spread of germs

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure to wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands with soap.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or into your arm, not your hand.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Do not visit people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick.

Follow health travel advice and advisories 

Please note: the Canadian Government has issued a Global Travel Advisory. They are advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. Learn more here.

Take care of yourself 

  • It's OK to NOT be OK. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311. For more information, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.
  • Stay healthy by eating well, drinking lots of fluids, staying active (if well), and trying to get enough rest and sleep. A healthy immune system is better equipped to fight an infection.

In order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health is now recommending that all residents of Ottawa practice physical distancing. The above Youtube video explains what is physical distancing. 

Read video script

With more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ottawa, we are asking that all people in Ottawa practice physical (social) distancing 

What is physical distancing?

  • Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with.
  • Through physical distancing, we can flatten the curve. That means, decrease the number of people ill all at once, so that the healthcare system can keep up and continue to provide life-saving care.

How can you  practice physical distancing?

Here are a few examples:

  • Limit non-essential trips out of the home
  • work to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from other people, as much as possible. 
  • Work from home if you can
  • Avoid visits to long-term care homes, or retirement homes unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • Avoid non-essential trips in the community
  • Limit or cancel group gatherings, including play-dates for children
  • Older adults should avoid gathering in groups of 5 or more at this time

Why you need to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from others:

The human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that come out when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged 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

Our collective efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones, and our most vulnerable. Stay home if you are able to.

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