Why social distancing is so important
Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections. These often include curtailing social contact, work and schooling among seemingly healthy individuals, with a view to delaying transmission and reducing the size of an outbreak.
Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. It means less contact between you and other people.
Social distancing is essential because COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:
- Direct close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared
- close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes, or
- Touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
As an individual, you can lower your risk of infection by reducing your rate of contact with other people. Avoiding public spaces and unnecessary social gatherings, especially events with large numbers of people or crowds, will lower the chance that you will be exposed to the new coronavirus as well as to other infectious diseases like flu.
Does social distancing work?
There is evidence from previous outbreaks, including the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, as well as from outbreak simulations, that social distancing can effectively limit the spread of infections. We don’t know exactly how the new coronavirus spreads, but like viruses are predominantly transmitted by droplets emitted from the mouths and noses of infected people when they cough or sneeze, which can land on surfaces and people’s hands.
It is recommended to separate yourself from people you live with as much as possible. If you can’t avoid sharing a bathroom or toilet, clean these areas regularly. If you have covid-19 or suspect that you are at risk, the priority should be to avoid transmitting the disease to others, particularly if you are caring for someone vulnerable.