What is social distancing, why should you care, and how can you practice it?
What is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a fancy way of saying staying away (close contact) from other people.
This means keeping a physical distance from others and avoiding areas where you may be in close physical contact with others, for example public spaces, supermarkets, social gatherings.
In the midst of a pandemic, it is very much necessary and urgent to initiate social distancing practices immediately. In fact, our Malaysian government’s decision to impose the Movement Control Order (MCO) is already a very large step in encouraging social distancing.
Why Should I Practice Social Distancing?
To understand why you should practice social distancing, first you need to understand more about Covid-19.
Studies are on-going in the midst of this crisis to understand the nature of Covid-19 infections. So far, data shows that
- Covid-19 is spread via droplets
- 80% of infected people show mild symptoms such as mild cough or fever
- an incubation period of 2-14 days
- it is highly contagious
People around us could be harboring the virus and not know it yet. Yikes.
While we can wash our hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid touching our faces, to control the spread of Covid-19 from surfaces, we also know that human-to-human transmission can effectively be limited when we are far away from each other to avoid these droplets.
Therefore, the best defense is to avoid other people, and else if not possible then at least keep your distance from them. That’s social distancing.
How Do I Practice Social Distancing?
- Avoid going out from your home unless truly essential
- Avoid having people come over to your home
- Avoid going to areas where you will be in close contact with others
- Avoid being within *6 feet (~2 meters) of another person or persons
*Further information on distance. Some medical sites/personnel quote the distance to be 1 meter, 1.2 meters, 1.5 meters, 1.8 meters, 2 meters. For the purpose of this article, we chose the most conservative estimate which is the recommendation by the US’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which defines social distancing to include “maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible”. As such, we would like to urge all readers to maintain 6 feet (2 meters) social distance, or at least 3 feet (1 meter) minimum, from other persons.
If the above is over-simplified and you have further questions, it’s a matter of making sensible choices.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q1. How do I greet people, especially in business circles? Do I shake hands to greet and then stand apart?
A1. No handshakes, please. Keep your social distance from start to end of any conversation. Greet each other from afar. A wave, a nod, or respectfully put your right palm against your left chest (just like MAS crew).
Q2. I trust my family & friends with my life. I want to go visit them or have them visit me. Maybe a small dinner gathering or balik kampung. This is okay, right?
A2. Can you maintain 6 feet (~2 meters) distance from your relatives and friends while eating with them? Is it necessary to visit? Common sense says we cannot know for a fact you, your relative, or your friend is clear of the virus. We know the virus is highly-infectious. We also do not know for sure how every person in this equation would respond to the virus. Trusting each other is one thing, but can you trust the virus that may be silently waiting inside any one of you? The virus does not care about the emotional bond you share.
Q3. I absolutely have to go to the clinic or the supermarket. How do I maintain social distance?
A3. Find ways to keep yourself 6 feet (~2 meters) away from other people at all times. This means always being vigilant. Try to go during non-peak hours. In the waiting room, if somebody decides to sit close to you, make the choice to get up and move away. If you see a supermarket aisle that is crowded, choose to re-visit it later. If you’re choosing food and somebody intrudes into your 6 feet space, move away quickly. It may feel like an inconvenience or that you are allowing others to bully you, but be sensible about it. Your safety is a higher priority than grumbling. Be satisfied that you’re doing all you can for you.
Here’s a tip that might make you look crazy but if you find yourself dropping vigilance, take an umbrella out with you. Your arm length plus the umbrella length should provide you ample personal space or social distance. (Don’t use it as a weapon, but as a measuring device.)
Q4. People will think I am mad for doing this. I will lose face if i walk away, or if i cancel outings when everybody else is attending. How can you ask me to do this?
A4. Again, be sensible. How much can saving your face save your life? We cannot control what other people say, but we can control our reactions. If you know you have poor control over your reactions in the face of criticism, then consider not putting yourself in that position at all. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
(Source: thestar.com.my) McDonald’s in Bandar Puteri Klang demonstrating their social distancing markers. Minimum 1-meter distance from left/right/front/back.
Cannot This, Cannot That; What Can I Do?
Social distancing is uncomfortable and difficult but it is not the end of your social life.
- Stay connected to family and friends via other channels such as social media and picking up the phone.
- Find ways to exercise on your own at home.
- Find activities to occupy your time at home.
And, remember to intentionally practice healthy and sanitary habits to additionally protect yourself.
Knowing how the highly-contagious virus spreads, would you willingly put yourself in the line of fire?
Either stay at home or stay vigilant and take an umbrella with you. Remember, 6 feet away or 6 feet under, the choice is yours.
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How have you maintained your social distance? Let us know your tough decisions in the comments sections below.