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Coronavirus: What exactly does social distancing mean?

Readers Lounge By Audrey Masitsa


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According to the CDC, social distancing is the best way to help reduce chances of spreading COVID-19 (Photo: Shutterstock)

As coronavirus ravages the world, one of the recommendations of the government and World Health Organisation (WHO) is to practice social distancing. This, in part, means avoiding large gatherings, keeping a distance of at least two meters from others (particularly anyone who is sneezing or coughing), avoiding physical contact with others and staying home if you feel sick.

Human beings are social creatures and asking them to refrain from shaking hands and stay home seems like asking for too much. But, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social distancing is the best way to help reduce chances of spreading COVID-19.

How does social distancing prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Dr David Larsen, an assistant professor of public health at Syracruse University, explains it this way: every time you meet someone, you exchange bacteria and/or viruses. This can be from something as simple as shaking hands. He goes on to say, “Each interaction carries a probability of a transmission, and in the case of an outbreak of an infectious disease, if you decrease those interactions, you can decrease the probability of transmission events.”

Work from home and avoid large gatherings (Photo: Shutterstock)

In most cases, the CDC reports, when you get infected with coronavirus, you are more contagious when you are symptomatic (exhibiting symptoms). However, recent research has shown that some patients have mild or no symptoms making it harder to know that they are sick and need to avoid contact with others so as not to infect them.

Thus, to protect yourself from infection, it is best to avoid instances that could expose you to those who are sick like crowded places.

How to practice social distancing

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Social distancing doesn’t mean that you completely isolate yourself. Some of the guidelines given to us by the government include working from home, no school, avoiding social gatherings like meetings, weddings, burials and most recently church services.

Supermarkets now have home delivery services but this doesn’t mean you can’t go shopping. Try doing it when you know there will be fewer people at the shops. When you get home, wash your hands thoroughly and clean your fruits and vegetables before storing them. 

Have video calls with loved ones (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you want to indulge in your favourite restaurant meals, order in. 

Avoid public transportation if you can but if you must use it, try and sit next to a window and keep it open. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately you disembark.

It can get difficult staying cooped up in the house all day. Where possible, go outside and get some sun. If your place of residence has enough space, go for a walk but avoid going too near people.

Keep in touch with friends and family by scheduling video calls. Avoid visiting each other. Say no to playdates and if you take your kids outside to play, explain that they need to stay away from other kids. As for doctor’s visits, only go if it is absolutely necessary. If it can wait, wait.

Remember, if you don’t need to go out, don’t. Keep safe!

ALSO READ: ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement stirs Ghanaian artist in COVID-19 limbo

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