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COVID-19: What is social distancing?

As the number of cases began to significantly increase in the UK, the government recommended we all follow the principle of ‘social distancing’.

We’re hearing it in the media a lot, but what does social distancing actually mean? Overall, the aim is to reduce the amount of social interaction between people.

There are several parts to it. The first is to reduce the amount of time you spend outside in public spaces.

Staying at home

As of 23rd March, stricter government guidelines were brought in to try and reduce the overall amount of social contact we’re all getting.

The new measures introduced mean that people are only allowed outside to:

  • Do food shopping
  • Exercise alone or with members of the household once a day
  • Get medical care or provide assistance to vulnerable people
  • Travel to and from work only where absolutely necessary, i.e. key workers

Shops that sell essential goods, such as supermarkets, are still open and parks will also remain open.

Social distancing in public places

As well as trying to stay at home as much as possible and limit how much you do go out, social distancing also involves keeping away from others when you do go out.

The advice is to try and keep two metres away from others. Many supermarkets have now marked one-metre gaps on the floor to help you try and judge this distance.

To judge how far away to stay from others, picture what happens when you breathe out on a cold winter’s day - this is how far our breath and germs can travel all the time, you just can’t usually see it.

Some have now also introduced one-way systems in store to prevent customers from crossing paths as much.

Self-isolation

If someone has symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature or a cough, then social distancing should be stepped up to self-isolation and they should not go out.

Use our interactive tool to figure out how long to stay isolated for.

For more information on what self-isolation means as well as ideas for keeping busy, download our Understanding Isolation guide.

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