1. Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  2. Avoiding infection

Coronavirus (COVID-19): avoiding infection

How to stay safe, help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect others and your community.

Social distancing guidelines

You need to follow social distancing guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means limiting your contact with other people and keeping a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.

To protect yourself and others you need to:

  • stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people as much as possible, unless you’re in your close social group
  • keep your close social group consistent, as much as possible
  • make informed choices about who and how to interact with each other (consider age, occupation and health conditions)
  • make sure you follow social distancing guidelines for gathering limits, businesses, organizations and workplaces

Exemptions to social distancing

Exemptions to social distancing include:

Activities and social distancing


  • Gatherings above gathering limits
  • Non-essential travel
  • Public spaces where there are a lot of people

Use caution

  • Social interactions, including a consistent close social group
  • Medical appointments
  • Travel
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Parks and beaches
  • Outdoor activities
  • Pharmacies
  • Public transportation
  • Restaurants
  • Visitors in your home

Keep your hands clean

Wash or sanitize hands often, particularly:

  • before and after preparing or eating food
  • after touching pets
  • after handling waste or dirty laundry or using the bathroom
  • whenever your hands look dirty

Washing your hands with soap and water is best. Rubbing your hands together when you wash them removes visible dirt and germs. Disposable paper towels are best for drying your hands, if you have some. If not, use a reusable towel that gets washed often.

If soap and water aren’t available, and your hands aren’t visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough to cover the fronts and backs of both hands and between all your fingers. Rub your hands together until they feel dry.

Cough and sneeze etiquette

Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the used tissue in the garbage and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub immediately.

If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you need to touch your face, wash your hands first.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Viruses can live on surfaces for several days. You can reduce the number of germs and reduce your risk of infection by cleaning and disinfecting every day.

You should clean the surfaces and objects you touch most frequently at least once a day, or more if needed.

Clean and disinfect things like doorknobs, light switches, railings, toilets and tabletops every day. Wash with soapy water first. Then disinfect with household cleaning products, following the directions on the label.

If household cleaning products aren’t available, you can make a diluted bleach solution following the instructions on the bleach label. Or you can make a solution 5 mL of bleach per 250 mL of water, or 20mL per litre.

You need to mix a fresh batch of the bleach mixture every day for it to work properly.

Disinfect phones, remote controls, computers and other handheld devices with 70% alcohol or wipes.

Wash or launder clothing, sheets and towels regularly.

Take your garbage out regularly. Wash your hands after.

Shopping safely and food safety

If you can, choose 1 person from your household to do all your shopping.

Try to minimize the amount of time you spend in a store. If you can, order by phone or online and pick them up curbside at the store.

If you must go into a store to shop, always follow social distancing guidelines. Try to visit the store when it's not too busy. Some stores are reserving special hours for seniors and people who may be immunocompromised.

Wear a non-medical mask if you're shopping at an indoor public place and follow any health measures required by a store (like following signage to guide you through the store). If you have questions about additional health measures, you can contact the store to learn what they're doing to keep everyone safe.

Clean your hands with hand sanitizer after shopping. Wash them with soap and water as soon as you get home.

Handling groceries

It’s important to wash your hands with soap and water before handling or eating food. You should also wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.

The virus can live on surfaces for a few days, but the risk of getting sick from touching your groceries is considered low. You can clean packaged food if you want, but you don’t need to.

Learn more: food safety during COVID-19 and how to keep you and your family safe.

Wearing a non-medical mask

When worn properly, non-medical masks can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Check the requirements for wearing a mask and how to choose and take care of a non-medical mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Being prepared for emergencies

All Nova Scotians should have an emergency kit and basic supplies that you and your household may need for up to 72 hours. Don’t panic buy or stockpile.

Make sure your prescriptions are filled.

Think about what you’ll do if you or someone you live with gets sick and needs care.

Talk to your employer about working from home if you need to self-isolate or take care of a sick family member.

Talk to family and friends. Share your emergency plan with them. Check in on each other and run essential errands for each other if one of you gets sick.

If you get sick, stay home until you have no symptoms.