Here’s a guide to what social or physical distancing is, why we should all do it and the concrete ways we can practice it every day.
What is social distancing?
It is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least two metres (six feet) lessens your chances of catching or spreading COVID-19. This distance is based on scientists’ understanding of how droplets from the respiratory tract of someone with the flu coughs or sneezes them out in the air.
Social distancing has two levels: one is keeping one person farther from another to limit the possibility of transferring an illness to another, and the second is limiting the size of social gatherings to accomplish the same goal and to ensure that if new cases do develop, they don’t happen all at once (or “flattening the curve”). This prevents overloading the health-care system. In Manitoba, as in some other provinces in Canada, public gatherings are restricted (Restoring Safe Services). See other specific public health orders in the Province’s State of Emergency page. Remember, when social distancing is not possible, wear a mask.
How to observe social distancing in public
- Avoid public transportation when you can or go early or late to avoid rush-hour crowding.
- Minimize prolonged (more than 10 minutes), close contact between other individuals in public.
- Avoid greetings that involve touching such as handshakes.
- Disinfect frequently used surfaces (for example, shopping cart handles, counters, hand rails,etc.).
- Avoid going to the gym, restaurants, places of worship and other places where close contact with others is likely.
- Follow public health advice related to self-monitoring and self-isolation if you have travelled or have been exposed to someone ill with the virus.
- Avoid travel, crowded places and events, especially if you are at higher risk (e.g. seniors and those with underlying medical conditions).
Coronavirus outbreak: How long social distancing could last, Global News.
How to observe social distancing at work
The province has released guidelines that encourage employers to relax sick leave policies and encourage those who are sick to stay home. Employers are also allowing employees to work from home when possible and discontinuing non-essential work-related travel outside of Manitoba. Those who are required to go to their workplaces should:
- Follow public health and safety guidelines outlined in MB’s Restoring Safe Services.
- Ask about workplace safety procedures. For instance, what kind of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be provided especially for jobs that require physical contact (or if you are expected to provide it yourself) and what physical distancing measures will be in place.
- Avoid in-person meetings. Use online conferencing, email or phone when possible even when people are in the same building.
- Unavoidable in-person meetings must be short and held in a large meeting room where people can observe proper distancing. Participants must avoid shaking hands.
- Postpone nonessential gatherings, workshops and training sessions.
- Do not congregate in work rooms, pantries, copier rooms or other areas where people socialize. Keep six feet apart when possible.
- Bring lunch and eat at your desk or away from others. Avoid crowded lunchrooms and restaurants.
Proper hygiene and healthy habits at home
- Encourage everyone to stay at home as much as possible. Limit unnecessary travel outside.
- Now is not the time to visit family and friends; neither should you be entertaining them at your home. However, you can check up on them and stay connected by calling or video chatting (and other virtual means).
- Consider ordering groceries for delivery, or assign one person to do the grocery shopping for the family.
- Family members coming home from work should not set their bags, coats and other items on frequently used surfaces like the dining or kitchen table. They should also change their clothes and wash their hands before interacting with family members or pets.
- Sanitize home surfaces often using household disinfectants or an alcohol-based wipe. Make sure to follow product instructions for proper use to prevent poisoning or respiratory problems. Store disinfectants, cleaning products and sanitizers out of children’s reach.
- Encourage everyone to wash their hands properly (at least 20 seconds) and often. They should also avoid touching their face.
- Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or into a tissue. Teach your kids to do the same.
- Stay at home if you’re sick. If you think you may have COVID-19, read Do you think you have Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Follow this Q&A.
Article updated August 25, 2020.
Sources: Social distancing, Province of Manitoba; What Manitobans need to know about COVID, Aidan Geary; Keep your distance: What social distancing means and why you’re being asked to do it, Aidan Geary; and Social distancing guidelines at work, SHRM (infographic), SHRM. Accessed March 10, 2020.
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