The Coronavirus pandemic has the whole world in a state of agitation. The biggest events have been cancelled (no NBA, no Premier League, no Coachella…). There are partial or full curfews in many cities, and countries. Public transport is limited or suspended completely (depending on where you are). Shops are closed. Life as we know it has been disrupted. Governments and health organisations are recommending limiting social and physical contact, to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease. That last bit – the limit on contact – has in fact given rise to a new concept – that of social distancing. This is to deal with the impact of the current state of self quarantine, while not becoming completely socially isolated. Social contact is important, after all.
So learn more about this new middle ground between self quarantine and socialising in today’s article on social distancing.
What is Social distancing
Even though health organisations like the CDC in the US and the NHS in the UK (and nearly every other state health organisations around the world) are recommending self quarantine – what they aren’t recommending, however, is complete isolation. And for good reason. It is important for us to have contact with others. We just need to adjust how we do it in light of these times. And that’s the point behind social distancing.
Social distancing is basically the sweet spot between quarantined isolation and normal socialising. The idea is that you should maintain some distance from other people, without completely isolating yourself.
The recommended distance, as per CDC, is around six feet of personal space. This practice also includes other recommendations, like not shaking hands with people you meet, and certainly no kissing on cheeks!
The term might be new, but the concept is not. Societies have used variations of social distancing in the past, especially when there isn’t a viable treatment option or vaccine available for an illness.
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Benefits of Social distancing
So why should you consider this practice of social distancing, why not just carry on as you did before this Coronavirus thing hit?
Here are some reasons why social distancing is worth practicing:
1. The obvious benefit of social distancing is that it limits the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Even if you don’t have it, someone you interact with might have contracted it, which can then be passed on to you if you just carry on socialising as before. Social distancing can help reduce the risk of that.
2. Practicing social distancing slows the spread of the disease, which makes it easier for our hospitals to deal with the situation effectively. Hospitals don’t function well when they are full to the brim, so social distancing helps reduce that issue.
3. The slower spread that social distancing helps achieve also has another great benefit – that of time. Researchers have more time to find and develop treatments, and vaccines (cures even). The slower the spread of a disease, the more chances we have of finding cures.
The benefits of social distancing isn’t just hearsay by the way, there is actual research which shows that the practice of social distancing can be an effective deterrent, or at least, can reduce spreading of pathogens. A study published in PLOS medicine journal found that in Mexico, closing schools for 18 days helped cut down the spread of the H1N1 virus by 29 percent!
How to practice Social distancing
So now that you understand what social distancing is, and its benefits, you might be wondering about ways to practice it. To help with that, below are some tips and ideas on how you can practice social distancing:
1. When you meet friends or family, it can be a good idea to think of ways to greet them that don’t involve touching. A wave hello can be an idea to try out. If you have any other ideas for greetings that involve no touching, do let us know in the comments.
2. If you are going out and have to use public transport, try to use parts of the bus or train with the least number of people.
3. The same goes for shopping centres and other public spaces – avoid crowds as much as possible. More people = higher risk of exposure.
4. When you go out, try to avoid touching things outside. If you do (sometimes it can be unavoidable, like when you have to press the button in lifts or train doors), do not use that hand to touch your face. And as soon as you get back, wash your hands and do it well. Health professionals recommend scrubbing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds – you can learn more about how to wash your hands properly here.
5. If and when you go out, it can be a good idea to wear gloves. Stops you from touching things directly.
6. Wearing masks can help reduce the chances of breathing in pathogens.
7. When you meet someone, try not to shake hands or touch them. Physical contact increases the risk of spreading or contracting the disease. It is unfortunate, but at least until the threat of this disease has passed, it is a good idea to limit your physical interactions with people. You will not only be reducing your chances of contracting the virus, you will also be reducing the chances of the people you care about getting it too – so it is something that is good for everyone, not just you.
8. If it is possible, work from home. Most employers are implementing remote working practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – so take advantage of that option if available.
9. Opt for online grocery shopping wherever possible.
10. If online shopping isn’t an option, or you need to visit the shops for some reason, it is a good idea to have a list of things you need – this way you can be efficient and reduce the time you need to spend outside, which reduces your risk of exposure.
11. If you have to go to the shops, going during off-peak hours is yet another way to reduce your risk of exposure, as there will be less people around.
12. If you really want to visit your gym, there is no reason you can’t. Just follow the advice about 6-feet of personal space, and don’t workout in crowded places. And definitely wash your hands before and after your gym visit.
13. If you want to socialise with friends, it is better to do so in places that aren’t very crowded. But if you want to be really safe, having video chats is the way to go.
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Stay safe without being isolated
There is no reason why you can’t still maintain connections with people. In fact, in challenging times like these it is more important than ever to stay connected with the people you love and care about. Just do so responsibly, as that reduces the risk of exposing yourself, and others, to viruses. Social distancing is not about isolating yourself and becoming a hermit – it’s about being aware of the concerns of our current time (Coronavirus), and taking steps to keep yourself and others safe, while also being connected to the people you care about.
What are your thoughts on social distancing? Do you have any tips or thoughts about social distancing to share?
How is the Coronavirus situation affecting you in your part of the world?
Share your thoughts and tips in the comments section below.
And remember, things will get better and go back to normal, but until they do, it is important to take steps to stay safe.
Look after yourself.
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