As COVID-19 continues to spread across communities in Australia and New Zealand, public health officials continually refer to physical distancing (widely known as social distancing), isolation and quarantine. But what exactly are these measures, and why might it be necessary?
What is physical distancing, isolation, and quarantine?
Physical distancing, is simply increasing the physical space between people to help reduce the spread of an infectious disease. Experts at the World Health Organization recommend a change in terminology from “social distancing” to “physical distancing”. While we limit face to face interactions, it is more important than ever to feed our “social” needs. We can do this by connecting with others over the internet and social media.
Physical distancing for all ages can help to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable individuals. This includes avoiding gathering in places like schools, religious services, sporting events, and restaurants amongst many other places.
Along with regular handwashing and not shaking hands to avoid the spread of disease, it is recommended that people stay at least 1.5 metres apart from others. This is because the droplets from a person’s cough or sneeze may contain the virus. If you are too close to an infected person, you may inhale the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing or sneezing has the disease. Maintaining physical distancing helps reduce your chances of catching the infection.
Isolation refers to keeping people who are sick with the COVID-19 infection from spreading it to others.
Quarantine is for those who may have been exposed to the virus through a close contact, or have recently travelled, and are at risk for getting infected.
Though these may seem like excessive actions, it may be one of the best chances to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Tips to stay healthy and connected
While these tactics are necessary during this pandemic outbreak, people may experience feelings such as fear, anxiety, depression or loneliness. To combat these feelings, here are some things to help you stay positive and healthy.
- Create a routine. This may help bring order and purpose to daily tasks. Be sure to include activities such as exercise, eating healthily, meditating and other healthy pastimes.
- Stay connected virtually. Phone or video call a friend or family member during physical isolation. Having a conversation and staying connected could help relieve sad or anxious feelings. Many apps allow you to communicate with groups using video chat.
- Help your neighbours. Consider dropping a note with your phone number to offer help if it is needed. Particularly to those who live alone, don’t have a car or are older. You could provide help to pick up essentials from the shop or offer moral support—of course while maintaining physical distancing and local rules.
- Get online. Social media sites can make it easy to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. This can help you feel more supported and could result in less stress.
- Learn something new. Find a topic or skill of interest such as painting, baking, or building something, that can be taught by friends and family through video calls.
- Stay positive. Discuss experiences and feelings with loved ones, keep a daily gratitude journal, and practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises.
You can read more tips on managing your mental health during a pandemic here.
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