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Differences in Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation

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Coronavirus or more popularly known as COVID-19 has caused a major shock to the world. It has been proved that no country, no matter how developed their economy or healthcare systems are, is ready to face a pandemic of this scale. Considering the fact that no vaccine is available in the market to prevent the disease or no sure treatment is discovered as yet, the only way to contain the spread of the virus is by practising Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation. It is also a way to ensure that the hospitals and healthcare institutions are not overburdened with a huge influx of patients.
The words Social Distancing, Isolation and Quarantine are often misused synonymously by people. More often than not, these words are used to describe the act of staying indoors and avoid interacting from everyone. The misunderstanding has led to a rise of either fear of socializing and therefore increase in mental health issues, anxiety and depression; or complete disregard towards these practices believing them to be over exaggerations. Both of these stands are dangerous at this time. Thus, it is important to understand the differences between these terms.

What is Social Distancing?

Social Distancing or Physical Distancing entails keeping physical distance between two individuals. It is applicable when a person has stepped out in public spaces where there is a chance of having to be in close contact with other people. To fight against the rapid spread of COVID-19, one needs to practice social distancing by:
– Staying at least 6 feet away from other people
– Avoiding group gatherings
– Staying out of crowded places and avoiding mass gatherings
– Avoiding physical contact including acts of hugging, shaking hands, etc.

What is not Social Distancing?

Social Distancing refers to only avoiding physical confrontations. It does not mean people cannot interact with one another using video conferencing, calls or other modes of communication. It also does not mean that a person can not step out at all. While it is preferable at current time to avoid stepping out unless necessary, social distancing norms merely ask to maintain physical distance from people if and when stepping out.

What is Quarantine?

When a person is asked to stay indoors because he/she is exposed to the virus but do not have any symptoms of infection himself/herself. The idea is to avoid physical contact with people who have not been exposed to the disease at all. In practising quarantine, all the people who have been exposed to the disease can stay together as long as none of them shows symptoms of infection. It is basically a measure to keep the people who might not be infected themselves but might be carriers of the virus, away from others.

What is Isolation?

Isolation is when an infected patient is asked to stay away from other people, and therefore preventing healthy people from catching the disease. This is imposed only on those who are already sick and have confirmed infection.
Social Distancing, Isolation and Quarantine might not defeat COVID-19. However, these measure provides the healthcare workers with time to treat patients efficiently, and that the influx of patients do not cross over the capacity of hospitals.