Update – April 2020. This blog has been updated in line with the new restrictions on gatherings and physical distancing.
Ok, so the title dates me…I’m a child of the 80s. Olivia Newton-John was a leg-warmer wearing goddess to many.
During this crazy, unbelievable, unprecedented COVID-19 (coronavirus) time it’s important that we embrace the practice of physical distancing, also called social distancing (your choice whether to do this wearing leg warmers, but please, please, please just do it).
It’s the best option we have for slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that we protect the most vulnerable in our community (our older people, people with suppressed immune systems, people with chronic conditions, pregnant women and people with pre-existing health conditions). Obviously, this list includes many of us, so physical distance is important for protecting our own health and wellbeing, as well as the broader community.
Physical distancing also helps us to flatten the curve. You may have heard this term reported in the media and thought – “huh?? What does that have to do with me?”. In basic terms when we practice physical distancing we reduce the risk of passing on, or catching the virus and we’re helping to spread out the number of people becoming infected over a longer period of time. By spreading it out, our health system is more equipped to handle the numbers and not become overwhelmed, which would be the case if we all got sick tomorrow.
And it’s not just us – many of our wonderful healthcare workers will inevitably get sick too. Which will affect the ability of the health system to keep up with the demand. So spreading this out over a longer period of time makes a lot of sense. Read more about flattening the curve here.
Now more than ever it’s important we stay in contact with the people we care about
Personally, I like the term physical distancing. It’s seems to me to be less isolating and now more than ever it’s important we maintain our social connections (just not physically in the same space). By maintaining our physical distance we can still chat and stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues – using technologies like Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, emails, as well as going old school and actually calling someone (insert gasp here) and even send letters (both WHO and CDC have confirmed that you can’t catch the virus through your mail).
So what do you need to know about physical distancing?
Stay informed. This is really important. Misinformation leads normally rational people to buy more toilet paper they can use in a lifetime, causing shortages for others. It leads to fear, anxiety, confusion and anger. So stay informed with accurate, up-to-date information. Go to our website, we have a dedicated section with up-to-date, reliable and practical information on COVID-19.
Maintain your physical distance. But be careful with the pinwheeling arms (if you’re not a child of the 80s look it up). I saw someone doing that today to emphasise that she had enough space around her and she almost took her husband’s eye out (clearly he wasn’t keeping the recommended physical distance).
We’re advised to maintain at least 1.5 metres between ourselves and others. As a guide if you stretch your arms out to your sides (horizontal with the floor) and imagine this amount of space goes all the way around you. Now imagine everyone you come in contact with has the same amount of space around them. This is how much distance you need to keep between yourself and others.
Stay home. We’ve now entered a period that requires us to stay at home as much as possible. The 1.5 metre space around you is a guide for when you HAVE to go out. We’re being advised to only go out when absolutely necessary – when we need to go to the supermarket or chemist for supplies. If you do have to go out, try to avoid crowds and touching too many surfaces.
Now’s the time to embrace your inner introvert! Think about all the times you said you’d like to do X if only you had the time. Well now’s the time! Learn that language, write that book, do something with all your holiday photos, clean the clutter from your cupboard/house/garage, virtually travel the world, live stream the zoo, tune in to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra online. You’re not only doing something you’ve always wanted to do, but you’re helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
Public gatherings. On 29 March the Federal Government brought in restrictions to limit most indoor and outdoor non-essential gathering to 2 people. Places where more than 2 people may gather as they’re considered to be essential are: workplaces (if you can’t work from home), health care settings, pharmacies, food shopping, schools and universities (if you can’t study from home) and public transport. You need to maintain physical distance (i.e 1.5 metres between each person) during this time. Unfortunately many of our favourite places to gather are not considered essential at this time. This includes: libraries, cafes, galleries, movie theatres, markets and places of worship. But this won’t last forever – and just think how much more we’ll enjoy them when we get to go back?? Find out more about these restrictions: Limits on public gatherings for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Look after yourself. While you might be tempted to go full out couch-potato, you need to stay active, eat healthy foods and watch your weight, get plenty of sleep, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and generally look after yourself. Also go easy on the alcohol. These things will all help your immune system, and help you feel the best you can. And if you do become sick – whether it’s with COVID-19, a cold or some other illness, you’ll do better if you’ve been looking after your health.
Check in with others. There are many people on their own who may become isolated during this time. Call them. If you don’t know them (for example an elderly neighbour) leave them a note with your phone number and let them know you can help them out if they need groceries or other supplies. Also some people may just need to hear another voice and know someone is looking out for them.
More to explore
- Why are we calling it ‘social distancing’? Right now, we need social connections more than ever
The Conversation, 24 March 2020
- Is ‘social distancing’ the wrong term? Expert prefers ‘physical distancing,’ and the WHO agrees
The Washinton Post,27 March 2020
- Physical distancing and other transmission reduction measures – coronavirus (COVID-19)
Department of Health and Human Services, State Government of Victoria, updated 25 March 2020
- Coronavirus distancing measures are confusing. Here are 3 things to ask yourself before you see someone
The Conversation, 23 March 2020
- How we’ll avoid Australia’s hospitals being crippled by coronavirus
The Conversation, 20 March 2020
- These graphics help explain why social distancing Is critical
Smithsonian Magazine, 19 March 2020