Social distancing is a public health strategy attempting to prevent or slow the spread of an infectious pathogen like a virus. Social distancing is for everyone, not only for the ill. It includes any method to keep people physically separate from each other because physical proximity is how many pathogens go from one body to another. This includes isolating people who are infected, quarantining people who may have been infected, and keeping people separate from each other in general. Research has shown that in urban areas and regions where a disease is spreading, taking measures like working from home and canceling large events can significantly reduce the rate of new infections.
When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Social distancing is especially important for the ongoing pandemic because there is currently no vaccine to protect you against the circulating virus. This is important not only for your own safety but also for the safety of others - especially the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Tips from the NHS and World Health Organization (WHO) that can be used to practice social distancing:
- Avoid kissing, hugging and shaking hands with others. Instead of shaking hands, try bumping elbows, locking feet or greeting one another with your hand on your heart.
- Maintain a distance of 2 metres (3 steps) from other people
- Sleep alone if possible
- Try to stay away from the elderly and those with long-term health conditions
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
If you are experiencing symptoms:
- Whenever possible, have necessities such as food and medicine delivered to you by friends, family and delivery services (ask people to leave deliveries outside)
- Do not leave the house, for example to go for a walk, to school or public places
- Drink plenty of water and take cold and flu medication, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, to help with your symptoms
- If you have to take care of someone with these symptoms, practice good hygiene at all times.
If you are older than 60 years old or have an underlying condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory condition, please avoid crowded areas.
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
While it is important to self-isolate physically, it is equally important to remember that you are not alone. Today’s technological developments have given a whole new dimension to social connections - use these advancements to stay in touch with your friends and family. Use self-isolation as a tool to rejuvenate yourself both physically and mentally. Seek information from trusted online sources such as the NHS and WHO about the disease.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about if you display symptoms of the disease - be sure to inform someone responsible and take ample time to recover.
For more information, subscribe to IIUKs monthly bulletin, and download the app.
UK: 111 (NHS 111)
Berlin: 030 90282828
Frankfurt: 0800 5554666
Essen: 0201 123-8888
Norway: 815 55 015
The Netherlands: 0800-13 51
Austria: 0800 555 621
Denmark: 72 22 74 59
Where can I go for more information and updates on COVID-19?
National Health Service (NHS):
World Health Organisation (WHO):
World Health Organisation (WHO) travel advice
Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England:
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Travel Advice:
Public Health England