By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province has launched a new online self-assessment tool to help people understand if they should report their illness and whether they need to be tested for COVID-19.

“One of the things we want to do”¦ is empower people,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix, “allow them to be at home and to take care of themselves and to seek help when they need it.”” 

Within 24 hours of posting, 500,000 people had completed online self-assessments.” 

“Which indicates the extent of public interest,” said Dix.The tool has already begun to take pressure off the B.C. government’s COVID-19 information hotline (811), which has been fielding more than 3,000 calls a day from people concerned about whether they have the virus and if they need to be tested.

On the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top Medical Officer of Health, people with mild symptoms of sickness have been staying home and self-isolating.” 

“There’s been a lot of concern about whether they need to be tested for COVID-19,” said Henry. “We don’t think most people do. What we need you to do when you’re sick is to stay at home and stay away from others until you’re feeling better.”

The self-assessment tool removes some uncertainty from the process, asking respondents about the severity of their symptoms and if they have had contact with people who tested positive to the virus. Depending on the answer, the survey directs participants to self-isolate, call emergency services at 911, or to contact the COVID-19 hotline at 811.

“That gives you some advice on what to do and some reassurance so you know”¦ what are the warning signs that you need to think about,” said Henry, “and who does need and who doesn’t need to be tested, and the fact that you can stay home and recover from this.”

As of Mar. 19, more than 50,000 tests had been completed in Canada, including 17,000 COVID-19 tests in B.C.