What is social distancing? The dos and don’ts

Mar 23, 2020
The Australian government has advised people not to shake hands. Source: Getty.

As health officials in Australia work to slow the spread of Covid-19, they’ve asked Australians to practice social distancing as much as possible. But what is social distancing and how do you do it?

What is social distancing and why is it important?

Social distancing mostly means avoiding close contact with others, as well as public spaces. Cancelling events that are likely to draw a large number of people is an example of social distancing. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on non-essential gatherings of 100 or more people indoors, while non-essential outdoor gatherings remain capped at 500 people.

Australia’s Department of Health says social distancing is important because Covid-19 is most likely spread from person-to-person, so “the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread”.

Does that mean never going out?

People who are practicing social distancing can still engage in activities like gardening or taking a walk around the block. However, to reduce the spread of the virus, you should avoid handshaking and kissing, visit shops sparingly, travel at quiet times and try to avoid crowds. People are also being advised to avoid visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment.

If you have to go to the store for groceries or other essentials, try to go during off-peak hours and maintain a distance of at least 1.5-metres between yourself and other people. Also, be sure to sanitise your hands wherever possible, including when entering and leaving buildings.

Meanwhile, if you are organising a gathering, consider whether you can postpone, reduce the size or cancel the event. Instead stay connected through phone, video and social media.

What if I’m an older person or have a pre-existing medical condition? 

At this stage, the advice for elderly people or those with a pre-existing medical condition is to take extra precautions. This means avoiding large gatherings and exercising caution when using public transport.

According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19. People who have underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung disease are also likely to get very sick if they contract the virus.

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What are your thoughts on this? Have you been practising social distancing?

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