Keep Your Distance; Stay Safe


Everything has become surreal since the outbreak of COVID-19; dramatic changes have happened, critical decisions have been made, and many misinterpreted concepts have dominated the scene: social distancing, quarantine, and isolation. Although these concepts are not new and had been implemented in various past situations, overreacting and panic caused by fake news and exaggerating consequences have misguided many people. So, let us have a look at the definition of each concept and the case in which it should be implemented.

Social Distancing

In general, social distancing is a term applied to certain actions to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Its measures include limiting large gatherings of people, closing public venues, and canceling events; the purpose is to restrict when and where people can gather.

Social distancing means keeping a safe distance from others. On a personal level, it means keeping a distance of approximately one meter from others and avoiding physical contact with people. At community level, it means avoiding gathering spaces, such as schools, workplaces, concert halls, and public transportation. This should be carried out by everyone.

Social distancing includes “staying home”; this measure emphasizes avoiding face to face contact, especially in confined spaces. It means not leaving the house except for essentials; to pick up groceries or prescriptions, limiting those trips to the absolute minimum, and you can visit someone if you are their caregiver, but you must be thorough with sanitary measures. People with essential jobs—like public safety, medical, sanitation, or grocery workers, etc—have to go to work, but must be diligent with precautionary measures. Staying home could be done either voluntarily, to prevent the virus from spreading, or mandatory.


This means staying home and away from other people, including those in your household, as much as possible, for a 14-day period. There are two types of quarantine:

  • Self-quarantine, which involves separating and restricting the movement of someone who does not have symptoms, but who had close contact with someone who recently became ill. A person in self-quarantine should follow all the rules of social distancing, except they should avoid going to stores or interacting with the public entirely.
  • Official or Mandatory Quarantine, which means a government-imposed lockdown on a community, in which movements are severely restricted. People can still go out for essentials, but they can do so only under strictly controlled conditions or on a specific schedule imposed by public safety officials.


It involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 or has distinct symptoms—including: fever, coughing, and/or shortness of breath—but has not yet been tested or received test results, to prevent them from spreading the disease to others. A person in isolation should be confined to a separate room, and use a separate bathroom if possible; strict sanitary measures must be implemented and everyone else in the household should self-quarantine.

How to Cope

Spending days or weeks at home with limited resources and social contact can take a toll on mental health; psychologists suggest some ways to handle these psychological risks:

  • Limit news consumption to reliable sources such as the WHO website, since too much exposure to media coverage of the virus can lead to increased feelings of fear and anxiety.
  • Create and follow a daily routine that can help you preserve a sense of order and purpose in your life despite the unfamiliarity of isolation and quarantine.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising in your home. Try to unwind by reading, listening to music, or learning something new.

Finally, catastrophizing adds nothing to you but more anxiety; instead, try to focus on what you can do and accept the things you cannot change.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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