Self-Isolation Instructions for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This page is currently under review and will be updated shortly – September 17, 2021

Last Updated: September 17, 2021

  1. Self-isolation guidelines
  2. COVID-19 Class Order for self-isolation
  3. Self-isolation period and testing requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19, high-risk contacts and household contacts
  4. Self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms
  5. Getting to a testing site
  6. Self-isolation instructions
  7. Household cleaning and disinfection
  8. High risk, household, and close contacts definitions
  9. The Voluntary Isolation Center
  10. Self-isolation after international travel
  11. Travel within Canada
  12. Ending self-isolation
  13. Managing symptoms of COVID-19
  14. Where did I get COVID-19 from?
  15. Notifying your close contacts
  16. Receiving a COVID Alert App exposure notification
  17. Resources

Self-isolation guidelines

Self-isolation is a behavior that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Self-isolation includes staying at home, avoiding contact with other people (including those in your household if possible) and only leaving home for critical reasons, like a medical emergency. The purpose of self-isolation is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others in your home, schools, work and our community at large. 

You must self-isolate if: 

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19, or are waiting for your COVID-19 test result
  • You have been in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19*
  • You are a household contact of a symptomatic person waiting for a COVID-19 test result**

You may have to self-isolate if you have:

  • Returned from travel outside Canada. All travellers entering Canada must follow federal quarantine requirements including isolation and testing. Refer to the Federal Quarantine Requirements to determine whether you are required to isolate.

*if you were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at the time you came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 you may not need to isolate, please see the high-risk contacts page to learn more as there are some situations where people will still need to isolate.

*If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days, cleared from your initial infection and are asymptomatic, you may not need to isolate.

**if you were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at the time you came in contact with someone who had COVID-19 symptoms, you do not need to isolate.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions.

If you are required to isolate as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, your household members must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of your self-isolation period. Essential reasons include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions.

Self-isolation requirements for residents of Ottawa may differ from those in other health units.

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COVID-19 Class Order for self-isolation

The provincial Health Protection & Promotion Act allows the Medical Officer of Health to issue a "class order." An order was issued on September 22, 2020 (updated on December 3, 2020), and is in effect until the Medical Officer of Health declares it is no longer needed.

The "class order" directs people to stay home and self-isolate until they are not contagious (able to transmit the infection to others). The purpose is to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and protect the health of everyone in Ottawa. The goal of this order is to provide authority to gather information in situations that may lead to COVID-19 transmission and, in rare occasions, to hold individuals responsible who are unreasonably ignoring Public Health guidance and knowingly putting others at risk.  A person who knowingly ignores this class order to self-isolate can be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day and Police may be called upon to assist.  

The class order is directed to:

  • People who test positive for COVID-19
  • People with signs and symptoms of COVID-19
  • People who have been tested and are awaiting the results of their test
  • People in recent close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, has signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results of their test. This includes caregivers and household members.

The class order does not apply to people who do not meet the criteria above but are still getting tested.

Can people be exempted from the class order?  
Yes, some essential health care workers, who are high-risk contacts with no symptoms may be permitted to work. However, they must self-isolate at home when they are not working or travelling to/from work. Exceptions may also be made for people leaving domestic violence. Ottawa Public Health will review exceptions for each situation.  People can still go for medical appointments when they are in self-isolation. Contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 for instructions before going to a medical clinic or hospital.  
Can someone legally challenge the class order?  
Yes, the person listed in the class order can challenge it by appealing to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board.

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Self-isolation period and testing requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19, high-risk contacts and household contacts

Please note that self-isolation requirements for residents of Ottawa may differ from those in other health units. 

Self-isolation period and testing requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting Recommendations
If you test positive for COVID-19 with mild to moderate illness   The self-isolation period is 10 days from symptom onset. Before you stop self-isolation, your symptoms must also have improved for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications).  N/A - If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are waiting to hear from Ottawa Public Health, you may find it useful to review our Tested Positive Letter (pdf - 1 MB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly). The letter reviews important information of self-isolation such as the self-isolation requirements, how to protect the people you live with, and notifying your close contacts. The letter also includes information to help support you during your self-isolation period.
If you test positive for COVID-19 with no symptoms 

The self-isolation period is 10 days from your testing day as long as you stay symptom free. 

N/A see letter above 
If you test positive for COVID-19 and experience severe illness that requires intensive care unit (ICU) admission or have severe immune compromise (such as receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment, or taking prednisone, or other immune suppressive medication)  The self-isolation period is 20 days from symptom onset. You may end self-isolation after this period, provided that you have no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.  N/A see letter above 
Self-isolation period and testing requirements for high-risk contacts
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting Recommendations
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and were able to break contact (e.g. someone outside of your home)  

The self-isolation period is 10 days from your last contact with that person. Even if you test negative for COVID-19, the self-isolation period is 10 days as this is the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus.  

 
Go for testing at least seven days from last exposure to the person who tested positive for COVID-19 or immediately if you develop symptoms.
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you cannot break contact with them (parent to young child) The self-isolation period is 10 days from the last day of the isolation period of the person who tested positive. Even if you test negative for COVID-19, the self-isolation period is 10 days as this is the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus.   Go for testing at least seven days after the positive person’s symptoms started. If the person who tested positive has no symptoms; you should be tested at least seven days from the day the positive person’s test was completed or immediately if you develop symptoms.
Self-isolation period and testing requirements for household contacts of high-risk contacts
ScenarioIsolation PeriodTesting Recommendations
If you live in the same household as someone who has been deemed a high risk contact (has had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19) and who has symptoms 

The self-isolation period is 10 days from the last day you were in contact with them (i.e., the day you began isolating away from them). If the household member who is a high-risk contact receives a negative test result, you may stop self-isolating but should stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of the isolation period.  

Essential reasons include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. 
You only need to go for testing if the person you live with tests positive or if you develop symptoms.
If you live in the same household as someone who has been deemed a high risk contact (has had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19) and who has no symptoms  

You must stay home except for essential reasons for the duration of the contact’s self-isolation period.  

Essential reasons include: attending work/school/childcare and essential errands such as groceries, attending medical appointments or picking up prescriptions. 

You only need to go for testing if the person you live with tests positive or if you develop symptoms.

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Self-monitor for symptoms

Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing. If these symptoms develop, visit our assessment centres and care clinics webpage for information on where and when to get tested.

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Getting to a testing site

  • Do not use public transportation, instead use a private vehicle.
  • If a private vehicle is unavailable, take a taxi/shared ride service (e.g., Uber, Lyft, etc.) while wearing a procedure/surgical mask and sitting in the rear passenger seat with the window open (weather permitting). If possible, you should also note the taxi company name and operator number in case there is a need for contact tracing.

Visit our assessment centres and care clinics webpage for information on where and when to get tested.

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Self-isolation instructions

  • You must self-isolate at home (or at the Voluntary Isolation Centre).
  • Do not leave your place of isolation unless it is to get urgent medical care. Wear a cloth or medical mask when you leave to see a health care provider. Change any non-urgent health care appointments, such as an in-person visit with a family doctor until after the self-isolation period has ended or request a virtual appointment.
  • Do not leave your property to go for a walk. Stay in a private place like your yard or balcony if you go outside for fresh air.
  • Do not use public transportation (such as buses and trains). If you are seeking medical attention and do not have a private vehicle, please use a taxi or rideshare, wear a mask, sit in the rear seat on the opposite side of the driver and open the windows (weather permitting).
  • Do not go to school or work in-person (attend virtually if you can). 
  • Stay, eat and sleep in a separate room and use a different bathroom from others in your home, if possible. If this is not possible, shared rooms and bathrooms should be well ventilated by opening the window to increase air circulation, weather permitting. Shared bathrooms should be cleaned between use, focus cleaning on “high touch” surfaces such as sink taps handles, light and fan switches, door and cabinet knobs and toilet handle. Put the lid of the toilet seat down before flushing, as the virus is present in feces. When in shared spaces, household member(s) should wear masks, stay at least two meters (six feet) apart and limit their time together.
  • Avoid sharing items, including dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, cigarettes and vaping devices.
  • Consider using disposable single-use paper plates, cups and utensils.
  • Do not have visitors. Limit contact with others in your place of isolation, including children, if possible. If you are the primary care provider to a child(ren), you may not be able to isolate yourself from them. If you need to care for children, wear a mask and practice frequent hand hygiene. If your child has tested positive for COVID-19, their ability to isolate away from household members will depend on their age and developmental level. When possible, the child(ren)’s caregiver should not be someone who is at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness (immunocompromised or elderly).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water; to dry hands use a paper towel or a cloth towel that no one shares.
  • Try to get groceries, medication, or other essential items online, over the phone, from friends, family, neighbours or anyone else who is not in self-isolation. Have items left at the door to minimize contact.
    • If this is not possible, call 2-1-1 for information on the full range of community, social, government and health service programs available in Ottawa and how to access them.
  • If a person must be in contact with others, wear a cloth mask and practice physical distancing to keep at least two metres (six feet) between yourself and the other person.

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Household cleaning and disinfection

  • At least once a day, clean and disinfect (using regular household cleaners) “high-touch” surfaces that you touch often, like counters, sink tap handles, toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes. Clean more often if surfaces become visibly soiled.
  • Dishes and eating utensils should be cleaned with dish soap and hot water after each use. Use of a dishwasher with a drying cycle also provides enough cleaning.
  • Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.
  • Put the lid of the toilet down before flushing.
  • All waste generated can be bagged in a regular plastic bag and disposed of in regular household waste.

For more information, visit our Stop the Spread of Germs page.

Supplies to have at home when self-isolating

  • Masks (medical or cloth)
  • Eye protection (face shield or goggles) and disposable gloves (do not re-use). These can be used by a caregiver
  • Disposable paper towels and tissues
  • Waste container with plastic liner
  • Thermometer
  • Over-the-counter medication to reduce fever (e.g., acetaminophen)
  • Hand soap
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Dish soap
  • Regular laundry soap
  • Regular household cleaning products
  • Hard-surface disinfectant or if not available, make a solution of concentrated (5%) liquid bleach and water by mixing 10 mL of bleach with one litre of water (two tsp of bleach with four cups of water).

If you need help with accessing supplies and do not have someone to get them for you or need financial aid to get them, there are a few options:

  • Call 2-1-1 for information on the full range of community, social, government and health service programs available in Ottawa and how to access them. You can also visit the 2-1-1 website
  • Local community health services can also provide support by referral. For more information, please call the COVID-19 Case Management Team at 613-580-2424 at the extension you were provided by OPH. This extension is for messages only. Please leave your full name, your phone number and your reference number provided by OPH.

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The Voluntary Isolation Centre (VIC)

Ottawa has opened a voluntary isolation centre for people who do not have access to an adequate shelter or cannot self-isolate safely in their own homes. There are no costs associated to stay at the VIC. This is an opportunity for people to rest and recover, without fear or anxiety of transmitting the virus to their family, loved ones, roommates and others they live with. Voluntary isolation is a proven way to help reduce the risks of spreading the virus among household contacts. See our voluntary isolation centre web page for more information.

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Self-isolation after international travel

All travellers entering Canada must follow federal quarantine requirements including isolation and testing. Refer to the Federal Quarantine Requirements to determine if you are required to isolate.

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Travel within Canada

Whether you drive or fly, if you travel within Canada (without having been out of the country) there are no federal travel requirements, but there may be provincial or territorial rules and restrictions. Check the provincial or territorial requirements before you travel.

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Ending self-isolation

Even once isolation is complete, OPH recommends that everyone be SocialWise.

  • W – Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • I – Isolate yourself from others when you are sick (and get tested if you have COVID-like symptoms).
  • S – Stay at least two metres (six feet) apart from those outside your household.
  • E – Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use sanitizer especially before touching your face.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hand.
  • Limit group gatherings.
  • Connect via phone, video chat or social media instead of in-person.
  • Avoid visiting elderly friends or relatives unless the visit is essential.
  • Talk to your employer about working from home, if possible.
  • Keep windows down for essential community trips via taxi or rideshares.

Visit our web page for more information on how to, stay active and be social. Check in with yourself. It’s okay not to be okay. For resources, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

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Managing symptoms of COVID-19

Most people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms and recover on their own. If you or member(s) of your family are ill with COVID-19, remember to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get as much rest and sleep as possible.
  • Use fever-reducing medications according to the label and in consultation with your health-care provider or pharmacist.
  • Try a humidifier or hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough.
  • Contact your health care provider if your symptoms worsen or are not resolving, and to get help with managing mild symptoms.
  • Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 if you have any questions.

There are also two COVID-19 Care Clinics within Ottawa where people can receive care for their COVID-19 symptoms. These clinics are open Monday to Friday from 8 am - 3:30 pm and require an appointment.

*Telephone booking is only for people who do not have internet access. It is not an information line.

If you are in distress (experiencing significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms) go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. It is ok to break isolation for this. Be sure to tell them that you are COVID-19 positive so correct precautions can be used to decrease the transmission of the virus.

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Where did I get COVID-19?

If you tested positive, you may be asked to think of where you may have been exposed to COVID-19. This helps OPH to identify others that may also have been exposed to COVID-19. In many circumstances people are not able to identify where they were exposed to COVID-19 and never find out this information.

When we notify close contacts that they have been exposed to COVID-19, we do not share names. We keep that information confidential. We are required to tell them the day that they were exposed to COVID-19. In some situations, we may need to tell them where they may have been exposed (for example, at school). Your privacy is important to us.

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Notifying your close contacts

If OPH asks you to notify anyone who you have been in close contact with, use a calendar or your cellphone to remember people that you may have been in contact with from two days before your symptoms started (or two days before you were tested if you do not have symptoms) until the time you finish isolation. Examples of close contact (pdf - 941 KB, available in Somali and Arabic) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) include people where:

  • You were within six feet/two metres of them for 15 minutes or more
  • Had multiple close encounters with them in a 24-hour period (even if each was less than 15 minutes)
  • You had close physical contact such as shaking their hand or giving them a hug
  • You live in the same household with them
  • You are their caregiver (e.g., you take care of an elderly parent)

You should have received the High Risk Contact Letter (pdf - 1 MB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) by email from OPH. Please share this letter with anyone you have had close contact with. 

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Receiving a COVID Alert App exposure notification

COVID Alert is Canada's free COVID-19 exposure notification app. It can alert you to possible exposures before you have symptoms. You can learn more on the Government of Canada’s COVID Alert website or the Province of Ontario COVID Alert website. If you have been exposed and are looking for more information, please visit our high risk contact webpage.

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Resources

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Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

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