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Social distancing and self quarantine

Dr. C.V. Alert, MB BS, DM. Family Physician.

Social distancing and self quarantine

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With Covid-19 disrupting peoples all over the world, some concepts like hygiene and social distancing are being put forward as part of the tools needed to ‘flatten the curve’: attempting to reduce a rise in the number of Covid-19 positive cases so that our health services can cope with relatively small numbers of very sick persons.

The term ‘social distancing’ is probably new to many people; to others ‘hygiene’ has always seemed to be a foreign concept.

Similarly, while individuals may need to be isolated under medical supervision because of their Covid-19 positive status, self quarantine is strongly recommended in another set of circumstances. But what do these terms mean?

So what is social distancing?

Social distancing is a term applied to certain actions that are recommended by Public Health officials to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease like Covid-19. It means minimizing the contact between people.

Why is social distancing necessary?

Social distancing is important because Covid-19 spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, small droplets – packed with the virus – are released into the air, and can land directly on people who are close-by. These can be breathed in, or can cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.










Social distancing

To limit the spread of Covid-19, as a community we should all be practicing social distancing. Everybody who can, should stay at home and only leave for these reasons:


What is self-quarantine?

If you develop symptoms of Covid-19 – such as a dry cough and high temperature – you must take extra precautions. You should stay at home and if possible, not leave it for any reason. Contact your doctor, or the Covid-19 Hot line (Tel 5364500), especially if your symptoms worsen. 

Medical experience to date suggests that as much as 80% of individuals who become Covid-19 positive only have a very mild illness: lots of rest, lots of fluids, acetaminophen (paracetamol) as needed normally does the trick.

Who should self-quarantine?

Everyone who shows Covid-19 symptoms – a fever of above 37.8C (100 F), a persistent cough, sore throat or breathing problems, runny nose – and everyone who lives in the same house as someone with symptoms, should self-quarantine.

If you live alone, you must stay at home for seven days from the day symptoms start. If you, or someone you live with, develop symptoms, the entire household needs to stay at home for 14 days to monitor for signs of Covid-19.

If someone else does become ill during that period, a seven-day quarantine (stay at home and stay away from other Covid-19 negative persons in the home) starts that day. For example, it might run from day 5 to day 12 – when that person’s stay at home period would then end. It would not restart if another member of the household fell ill.

But anyone who fell ill on day 12 would have to start additional seven-day quarantine from that day (meaning they would spend a total of 19 days at home).

Who shouldn’t go out at all?

People with very serious health conditions (as long as he/she is Covid-19 negative) are being urged not go out at all for at least 12 weeks. (This time period is subject to revision as conditions dictate).

This is what’s known as shielding. The most vulnerable groups include:

Others in the same household, and care givers, can go out as long they observe proper social distancing.

Cancelling events that are likely to draw crowds is an example of social distancing. Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.

Other examples of social distancing that allow you to avoid larger crowds or crowded spaces are:

Activities that do not fit the definition of social distancing include:

This was submitted as a letter to the editor by Dr Colin Alert.