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Isolating vs Distancing

There's a lot of confusion about what Self-Isolation and Social-Distancing mean, and the difference between them.

Self-Isolation means you keep yourself isolated from other people by staying at home, and getting food etc delivered to you.

Social-Distancing means that if you do go out, you keep a safe distance from other people. For Coronavirus this means 2 metres (about 6 feet - as far as you could reach with a broom handle) so clearly it means avoiding crowds. And it's a good idea to take other precautions too, such as wearing gloves.

Why are these important? 

You might self-isolate for two reasons:

  1. To stop yourself getting the virus.
    • This is particularly important if you are ill from another condition, or pregnant, or over 70 years old. You may feel fine, but if you did get the virus the consequences may be more severe for you.
  2. To slow down the virus spreading.
    • If you yourself have the virus then obviously you don’t want to spread it to other people. But the important thing is, you may have it without knowing it (people can spread the virus before they get symptoms). This is why the government wants you to self-isolate now, even if you have no symptoms.

The reason for social distancing (if you must go out, for essential reasons) is the same as 2. above:  it helps to slow the spread of the virus. Again, you might be spreading the virus without knowing you’ve got it.

Finally, why is slowing the spread so important? Some people ask - what’s the point of slowing it, if most people will eventually get it anyway? The answer is it saves lives, and we’re talking a lot of lives here. Slowing it ‘spreads the peak’, so that the people who are most likely to need hospital care don’t all get it at once and overwhelm the NHS. Even if we all now self-isolate, some people will die because there aren’t enough ventilators, other equipment, and trained operators to cope. By isolation and distancing we can stop many more additional deaths.