For the majority of Canadians, physical distancing is a totally new concept, and it can be confusing! If you've been wondering what counts as an “essential” trip outside, and whether you should be social distancing, self-isolating or quarantining, you're not the only one. Thankfully, Ottawa Public Health has taken steps to alleviate any confusion, and Canada’s social distancing rules just became a lot easier to understand!
“It’s a challenging and even frustrating time for everyone,” acknowledged Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, in her latest statement.
She explained that while social distancing is not particularly enjoyable for most people, the practice is imperative to reduce the spread of the disease, and to keep the community safe.
However, while Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has released several notices about the importance of practicing social distancing properly, the rules regarding “essential” trips and outdoor activity seem to have been misunderstood by some people.
To make the rules as clear as possible, OPH and Dr. Etches have explained exactly what the protocol is in their latest statement, and it’s pretty helpful to understand!
If you’ve been feeling unwell and wondered what you should do, or if you’ve been confused about whether or not you can go outside or head to the store, this should help clear things up.
With more people 55+ hospitalized, & another outbreak in a retirement home, we must each continue doing our part to… https://t.co/B3WyiDXcw5— Dr. Vera Etches (@Dr. Vera Etches)1585520682.0
What Is An "Essential" Trip Out?
After health officials urged residents to avoid all non-essential trips outside of the house, you may have found yourself wondering what counts as an “essential” trip.
According to OPH, these ventures are limited to exercising outdoors, picking up medication, and shopping for groceries.
Activities like sports in public places, sleepovers, parties, weddings, social gatherings, and visiting friends and family members are not considered essential.
Do I Need To Stay Away From My Friends & Family?
Should you avoid it? Should you use caution? Is it safe? These are the questions we need to ask before doing any ac… https://t.co/7VTfcweOBV— Ottawa Public Health (@Ottawa Public Health)1585576894.0
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, or you have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed, you must self-isolate. This means staying away from everybody else, even at home.
Otherwise, you do not have to distance from the people that you live with, whether that be a partner, friends or family.
However, you should practice physical distancing from everybody else, including friends and family that you do not live with.
"Connect via phone, video chat, or social media instead of in-person," OPH advises.
Can I Go Outside?
As many of us head into another week of working from home, let’s keep listening to experts like Dr. Tam. If you don… https://t.co/DTldy0QCGj— Justin Trudeau (@Justin Trudeau)1585575144.0
Yes! In fact, it is actually recommended that you do. Just remember to maintain a two-metre distance.
According to the health agency, “You can still take a walk, play with your dog outside, or kick a ball with members of your household who are already close contacts.”
However, it is prohibited to use public park equipment, outdoor sports courts, fields or enclosed dog parks in Ottawa. You may walk through them, but you cannot hang out at these facilities.
Additionally, if you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19, or have recently returned from an international trip, you cannot go outside at all.
“If you need groceries or other essential items, have a family member, friend or neighbour do the shopping for you and leave items at the door,” OPH urges.
What Do I Do If I Feel Unwell?
Most importantly, if you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate for 14 days. This means no essential trips out, no time outdoors, and no physical communication with anybody else, including the people you live with.
If you need to speak to a medical professional, OPH recommends calling your doctor or contacting TeleHealth.
If your symptoms become unmanageable, you should head to an emergency room.
If you think you may have coronavirus symptoms, you can use the government’s new self-assessment tool. It will give you advice about what to do next.
The importance of effectively practicing social distancing cannot be underestimated, Dr. Etches noted in her statement.
“The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones and the most vulnerable people in our community. By acting now, you may be saving lives – the life of a family member, a neighbour, a friend, or a coworker,” she concluded.
Stay safe, Canada!
*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.