COVID-19 Self-Isolation Tips for Snowbirds Returning to Canada
If you’re a snowbird who is just returning from your winter destination or will be returning soon, please be aware that as of Midnight on Wednesday, March 25th, all travellers returning to Canada are required by law to self-isolate for a period of 14 days (with some exceptions for essential workers).
The new requirement was invoked by the Federal government under the Quarantine Act.
If you are arriving by air, you may want to consider having a friend or family member leave a car for you at the airport so you can drive home on your own.
Penalties for non-compliance include:
- a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.
- $1 million or three years in prison, or both if someone jeopardizes another's life "while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act"
The government will be conducting spot checks on travellers returning to Canada to verify compliance.
You are required to self-isolate for 14 days in your home. You may have been exposed to COVID-19 and you could be a carrier even if you are not symptomatic.
Do not stop for groceries between the airport and your home (if arriving by air) or after you cross the border on your way home (if you are driving home), as this may spread the virus and put others at risk, even if you aren't showing any symptoms.
To prepare in advance for your arrival back home, consider asking a friend or family member to stock your fridge and cupboards with some basic food items. Once you are home, you can also take advantage of one of the many meal/grocery/medication delivery services that are available. Shopping from home takes a bit more thought, as you cannot go up and down the aisles as you do in a store, so make a list and keep adding things that come to mind.
You can find the latest guidelines for self-isolation requirements from the Government of Canada here. These requirements may vary depending on whether or not you have symptoms of COVID-19.
What You Can Expect When you Arrive Home
If you live in a condo, you will likely find that your condo building has put in place strict guidelines for returning residents to protect other residents in the building. Condos are restricting or banning visitors, closing gyms, swimming pools and party rooms, banning cleaning services, restricting newspaper deliveries to the lobby only, etc...
Restaurants have been asked to close in many cities but some remain open for take-out and delivery only. Consider supporting these businesses by taking advantage of deliveries.
Be aware that in many places, non- essential stores and services are all closed - this includes retail stores, offices, doctor’s offices, dentists, beauty salons, nail salons, massage services, gyms and fitness centres, community centres, swimming pools, clubs, restaurants, bars, hotels and many other businesses.
Most people have been asked to work from home, so offices are closed other than essential workers.
How to cope with self-isolation
Finding yourself confined to your home for 14 days will come as a shock to many, especially if you have been spending the winter enjoying the fresh air somewhere warm where you had the freedom to socialize and do whatever you felt like.
But there are many strategies you can employ to make this time passable. There are some remarkably innovative ideas we’ve heard of and the technology available today can help play a big part in keeping us busy, informed, connected and even active!
Monitor yourself for any signs of illness such as coughing, fever, aches, flu symptoms, tiredness or trouble breathing. Find out in advance where you can be tested for COVID-19 in your community if you become ill. If you are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your primary physician (i.e. family doctor) or your provincial telehealth service for guidance on what to do next. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, call 911 and inform them of your symptoms and travel history. These policies and procedures may change as the outbreak evolves, so be sure to check your local public health and community websites for up-to-date information.
Stay well hydrated and get lots of rest. If you don’t have access to gym equipment or outdoor space for walking, you can check out the many online fitness classes available on YouTube for Pilates, Yoga, and other workouts. Or consider putting on some of your favourite dance tunes and dancing for 30 minutes in your home each day! Some people are incorporating daily walks outside by themselves and at a distance from others, but there are differing opinions about whether this is appropriate or not.
Monitor yourself for any signs of illness such as coughing, fever, aches, flu symptoms, tiredness or trouble breathing. Find out in advance where you can be tested in your community if you become ill. If you are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your primary physician (i.e. family doctor) or your provincial telehealth service for guidance on what to do next. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, call 911 and inform them of your symptoms and travel history. All of this information is available on your local public health websites and community websites.
This is a great time to practice baking or trying out new recipes with the ingredients you have in your home. Again, there are many online resources for recipes through Google or on YouTube. Consider making a variety of things and freezing some for nights you don’t want to cook.
Things to do
First of all, try not to watch the news all day and night. Limit yourself to checking in a couple of times a day to reduce stress and anxiety.
Sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime or other streaming services to have access to many great TV shows and movies. Read some books you’ve been meaning to read.
If you enjoy Facebook and Instagram, connect a few times a day to see friends’ posts and engage with others. Social media can be a blessing and a curse, as we all know, but when people are isolated, it is a great way to feel connected.
Many museums, art galleries etc. have virtual tours. There is so much to explore online while you are at home.
Do all of the tasks around the house that you’ve been putting off like cleaning out that closet or tackling the basement! If the weather improves, you can also start your yard cleanup outside or do some early garden work.
Stay in touch
It is very important to stay connected with family and friends near and far. You will have plenty of time for phone calls, emails, FaceTime etc. to stay in touch. Do this on a regular basis and be sure to check in on single friends who may be feeling lonely.
FaceTime is a great way to see the grandkids and other family members.
Mental and emotional health
Everyone will react differently during a crisis. Given the age group of many snowbirds, there’s bound to be some fear, concern and anxiety around our own vulnerability to this virus.
It is important to talk about your feelings to a partner, a friend or family member. Also, practice whatever helps keep you calm and relaxed. This can include meditation, prayer, yoga, music, and keeping busy.
Practice social distancing when you do emerge from isolation. Remember that this too shall pass, but take extra care right now.