Governments and health officials around the world are asking people to practise social distancing to reduce pressures on health service and prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Social distancing measures are currently active in the UK, USA, Australia and many other countries. We explain what social distancing is, who it affects and how it can help during the current global pandemic.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a set of steps that individuals can take to reduce social interaction between people. This helps limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Social distancing measures include:
- Avoiding contact with those who display symptoms of coronavirus such as a high temperature or continuous cough.
- Avoiding public transport.
- Working from home where possible.
- Avoiding both large and small gatherings of people in public spaces.
- Limiting face-to-face gathering with family and friends.
- Using online and telephone services to contact medical professionals and other essential services.
Who is social distancing important for?
Social distancing is important for everyone but is particularly important for those who are classed as being in a high-risk group that may become seriously ill should they become infected with coronavirus.
You are in a high-risk group if you:
- have received an organ transplant.
- are currently receiving cancer treatment.
- have blood or bone marrow cancer.
- suffer from a chronic respiratory disease.
- have chronic heart disease.
- have chronic liver disease.
- have a chronic neurological disorder.
- have a condition that makes you vulnerable to infections.
- are taking medication that weakens your immune system.
- are seriously overweight.
- are pregnant.
- are over 70.
How does social distancing help?
Social distancing reduces the number of people who are sick at any one given time. If there are high surges in coronavirus cases, this will put pressure on healthcare services who will become overwhelmed.
How does social distancing work if I live with others?
Social distancing is mainly focused on avoiding large groups and those outside of your household as avoiding close contact within a household is almost impossible. You can still take measures within your home, however. Bathroom and kitchen surfaces should be cleaned regularly, and everyone should ensure they are washing their hands regularly.
What if someone I live with becomes ill?
If someone within your home becomes sick, you should try and limit contact with them as much as possible. Each person within the home should also self-isolate to prevent the anyone outside of the home also becoming ill.
Can I still see my family and friends?
You should try to rule out face-to-face contact with your friends and family where possible. You can still keep in contact with your family and friends by phone, social media and video calling services such as Skype, FaceTime and Zoom.
Can I still go outside to exercise?
You can still exercise outside, however, you should avoid contact with others. You should maintain at least 2 metres distance from anyone else you encounter outside. You should try and remain close to your home if exercising outside and should not travel to another area to exercise.
Can I still go out to buy groceries?
You can still visit local supermarkets and grocery stores to buy essential supplies, however, you should remain at least two metres from others and respect any policies put in place by the supermarket or grocery store. If possible, you should try using a contactless payment method rather than using cash.
Many people are also taking advantage of delivery services to obtain food and other essentials who offer contactless delivery methods.
How long will social distancing measures be in place?
It’s not clear how long social distancing measure will be in place for. The impact of social distancing is continually being reviewed. It may be some time before life returns to normal.
Social distancing is an essential part of preventing the spread of coronavirus. We’re all equally responsible and should follow the guidelines that have already been put in place and any that subsequently follow. Stay home, stay safe.
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