Most of us have spent the last couple of days in a confused haze, trying to wrap our heads around what exactly is happening in the world right now. In the wake of the Coronavirus crisis and consequent chaos, if there's one strategy that has emerged as absolutely critical to fighting this pandemic, it's that of social distancing, and self-quarantine.
Image Courtesy - TOI
But, What Exactly Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a commonly used strategy to mitigate the spread of highly contagious diseases. The basic idea here is to reduce contact between people and thereby reduce the transmission of the virus to more people. Currently, countries and communities across the globe are taking measures to minimise social and physical contact between humans, with the objective of slowing the spread of the virus. This includes restricting the formation of groups, gatherings or crowds by cancelling events and functions, discouraging the use of public transportation, asking employees to work from home, and urging people to stay in touch through electronic mediums as opposed to social and physical interaction.
Is That Different From Self-Quarantine?
Yes, it is. Think of self-quarantine as a more medically urgent form of social distancing. People who are currently in the process of being tested for COVID-19, or have been exposed to the virus or, are at a greater risk of transmission, may go into a mode of self-quarantine, wherein they stay indoors, isolate themselves temporarily and avoid as much as human contact as possible for a specific period of time, usually 14 weeks. Those who believe they were exposed to the virus, but are yet to show any active symptoms, will take this self-quarantine period to figure out whether they really are infected. It involves minimising physical contact and sharing of materials with other people and maintaining greater physical distance between oneself and others.
And What About Isolation?
Isolation is for those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19. To stop the further spread of disease in the population, it is extremely important for infected individuals to be isolated from the rest of the healthy populace, as they get treated. Depending on the severity of the case, isolation can be done at home, a care facility or a hospital.
But I'm Not Showing Any Symptoms, Do I Still Need To Practice Social Distancing?
Yes, you do. Firstly, at this point, social distancing isn't being encouraged just for individual benefit, but rather for the sake of the human population as a whole. Secondly, there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 wherein infected people did not show any symptoms. Thirdly, Coronavirus, like most other diseases, has an incubation period, after which symptoms start appearing. And lastly, a lot of the symptoms are flu-like and very easy to be overlooked.
Bottom line? You might not be infected, or you might not know that you are. Leaving it up to chance is as risky as it gets, considering there might be people around you who are immunocompromised but don't know it yet. Your undiagnosed infection may get transmitted onto them and vice versa. So like I said, yes, you still need to practise social distancing. Every single person on the planet currently does.
Okay, I Get It. But What Exactly Do I Do To Practice Social Distancing?
- Stay indoors, and avoid public outlets and places with crowds including (but not limited to) restaurants, cafes, co-working spaces, offices and gyms
- Don't share belongings with anybody, not just personal-hygiene stuff but everything you need to touch in order to hold or pass
- Minimise grocery/ medical/ other necessary trips by organising your purchases
- Avoid physical contact and maintain a minimum distance of 1 metre between yourself, and others (especially those coughing or sneezing)
- Make preparations for staying occupied while indoors
- Be careful about the surfaces you touch and how frequently they are touched by other people
- If you have the option of working from home, take it, no questions asked
- Avoid public transportation
- Carry a hand disinfectant or sanitizer with you at all times
Image Courtesy - The Latch
That Being Said...
Social distancing is all about avoiding physical human contact and interaction to stop the spread of a contagious disease. It does NOT translate to emotionally detaching yourself from your social support system, or those you enjoy spending time with. Whether it's frequent texting, calling or video calling, you can use digital means to stay in touch with your loved ones, especially at a time like this, when one of the byproducts of this pandemic could potentially be widespread loneliness. Also, the need to stay indoors does not mean the outside world is suddenly made of molten lava. You are still allowed to go on evening walks, so long as other people are at a minimum distance of 6 feet from you.