COVID-19: staying healthy

To stop the spread of COVID-19, you must follow all public health orders, including social distancing. There are other steps you can take to help you stay healthy and avoid getting others sick.

There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against COVID-19. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick or getting other people sick.

Social distancing guidelines

Nova Scotians need to follow social distancing guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means limiting your contact with other people and staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from them.

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 of 10
  • keep your close social group of 10 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 the gathering limit, businesses, organizations and workplaces

Exemptions to social distancing

Exemptions to social distancing include:

Activities and social distancing


  • Gatherings above the gathering limit
  • Non-essential travel outside Atlantic Canada
  • Public spaces where there are a lot of people

Use caution

  • Social interactions, including a consistent close social group of 10
  • Medical appointments
  • Travel
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Parks and beaches
  • Outdoor activities
  • Pharmacies
  • Public transit
  • 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 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 practise social distancing. 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.

Follow any health measures required by a store (like wearing a non-medical mask or 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 about 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 in the same way that following cough and sneeze etiquette can protect others.

You should wear a non-medical mask if you have respiratory symptoms (like coughing or sneezing) and you’ll be in close contact with other people, or if you’re going out to access medical care or other essential health services.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you should wear a non-medical mask whenever you’re in places where it’s hard to maintain social distance (like public transit, stores and group living situations).

Using a mask alone isn’t enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You should also make sure to keep your hands clean, follow cough and sneeze etiquette, practise social distancing and stay home if you’re feeling sick.

Guidance for wearing non-medical masks may change as Public Health continues to monitor the local spread of COVID-19.

Learn about choosing and how to wear a non-medical mask.

Volunteering during COVID-19

Many Nova Scotians are stepping up to help other people in their communities. If you’re volunteering, make sure you’re keeping yourself and the people you’re helping safe.

Don’t volunteer if you’re sick or if you’ve been directed to self-isolate. If you’re a senior or if you’re immunocompromised, you should avoid volunteer roles that involve interacting with other people.

Contact local organizations to see if they need help, or call 211.

Follow social distancing rules as much as you can—if you need to go in a car with someone else, have one person in the front seat and the other in the back seat. Wash or sanitize your hands often.

If you’re delivering groceries or other items for other people, follow all advice for safe shopping. Call ahead to let them know when you’ll drop their things outside their door. Don’t enter their home unless you have to. If you must go inside, remember social distancing and try not to touch anything in their home.

COVID-19 volunteer opportunities

Visit Volunteer NS to find volunteer opportunities in your community and work-from-home volunteer opportunities.

Showing homes and rental units during COVID-19

If you’re showing real estate or rental properties to prospective buyers or renters, you need to take precautions to make sure the visit is as safe as possible.

Everyone must practise social distancing when showing or visiting a residence, staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from anyone else. You should also make sure to clean your hands before and after the showing and follow cough and sneeze etiquette.

There are other things you can do to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 during showings, including:

For landlords, salespeople and brokers
  • Don’t show a residence if someone who lives there is self-isolating.
  • Make sure the people viewing the residence don’t have symptoms, and that they’re not supposed to be self-isolating. Don’t let them enter if they are.
  • Ask the current residents to leave cupboard doors and closets open so viewers don’t need to touch them.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask while showing the residence. Ask anyone who’s entering to consider wear a mask too.
  • Travel to the showing separately
  • Disinfect surfaces that were touched during the showing, like door handles.
For prospective buyers and renters
  • Don’t view a residence if you are in self-isolation. Stay home.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask during the showing.
  • Don’t touch anything in the residence.
For current residents
  • Let your landlord know if you’re in self-isolation, so they don’t enter your home.
  • Open cupboard doors and closets before the showing so the prospective renters or buyers don’t need to touch them.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your unit after the showing.
For property inspectors, contractors and other visitors
  • Don’t enter a residence if you have symptoms or if you’re self-isolating.
  • Consider wearing a non-medical mask during the visit.
  • As much as possible, avoid touching objects and surfaces in the residence.
  • Disinfect any items or surfaces that you do touch.

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.

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone. Support, guidance and shelter are available throughout the province.

If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

If you need help or information about emergency shelter, safety planning and available resources, call the 24-hour toll-free line at 1-855-225-0220. You can also find community resources at 211 Nova Scotia (or call 211).

Working during COVID-19

Employers and employees need to take steps to help staff and clients stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about working during COVID-19.

Mental health and wellbeing

A new virus like COVID-19 can create fear and anxiety. There are ways to manage your symptoms and get help if you need it. Learn more about protecting your mental health during COVID-19.

The best ways to take care of your mental health include:

Take care of yourself

  • Eat as well as possible.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain normal routines and programming as much as possible.
  • Spend time on hobbies.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Try mindfulness, yoga, meditation, art or relaxation techniques, like MindWell-U’s 30-day mindfulness challenge.

Stay connected

  • Get information from reliable sources.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbours.
  • Use phone, text, email and video calls to connect.
  • Connect with people on social media, but take breaks from it.
  • Listen and provide reassurance – it's normal to have questions.
  • Address questions and correct misinformation

Take care of others

  • Get groceries and necessities for people in self-isolation.
  • Share positive messages to support essential workers.
  • Watch for discrimination or bullying related to COVID-19