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What is physical distancing?

It is a way all of us can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It means limiting our physical contact with others who may not be vaccinated, are immunocompromised or do not feel comfortable having close-contact social interactions. Also, if you feel unwell or have any symptoms (no matter how mild), please stay home and get tested for COVID-19. By doing so, you are protecting others and reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

Social distancing is another term used for physical distancing. However, you shouldn’t distance yourself from others emotionally, even if you don’t feel comfortable meeting in person or returning to your pre-pandemic social life. Reach out to friends, family and community members through phone calls, texting, social media and video chat. If you’re comfortable, you can have a physically distant gathering too! 

How does physical distancing help?

Throughout the pandemic, physical distancing has helped slow the spread of this virus and protect people who are at high risk for serious infection. By practicing physical distancing, we limit the number of people who are sick at one time. That will make it possible for healthcare workers to care for those who are ill. Practicing physical distancing means you are helping to protect not only yourself, but others too. 

Physical distancing is different from self-isolation or self-monitoring 

Physical distancing means we limit close contact with others by doing things like gathering in smaller numbers and taking steps to get together safely. You can check out the latest COVID-19 guidelines for gathering on the Foundry COVID-19 page and the Government of BC website.

Self-monitoring is watching yourself for signs of illness such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. This is something you should do on a daily basis. If you are unsure what signs to look for, try using the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool.  

Self-isolation or self-quarantine is staying at home and limiting contact with others. You may need to self-isolate for many different reasons including if you have COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 or if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  Learn more about when you may need to self-isolate on the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website. 

What can I do while practicing physical distancing?

Things may look quite different than they did during the height of the pandemic, especially if you are vaccinated. If you are comfortable, you can have social gatherings and be in most public indoor spaces without a mask. However, many folks are not yet comfortable with returning to all social interactions. Before gathering, you can always have a conversation with your loved ones to find out what you are each comfortable with. In general, you should still practice physical distancing when in public.  

Things you can do at home for yourself:

  • Work out at home
  • Read a good book
  • Listen to music
  • Clean your home/bedroom
  • Cook a meal or bake
  • Watch YouTube or stream a favourite show
  • Arts & crafts
  • Nap
  • Study or do homework
  • Order takeout

Connect with others:

  • Check on friends and family members with a text, call or social media
  • Check on elderly neighbours over phone, email or social media
  • Share memes and gifs
  • Play video games
  • Group video chats

You can still do things in the community while you practice physical distancing. Try to stick to activities where you can keep a safe distance from other people such as:

  • Take a walk (while staying 6 ft apart from others)
  • Do yard work
  • Go for a run or bike ride
  • Go for a drive

Sometimes you can’t avoid contact with others. In that case, be very careful when going out and wear a mask if you are able to when in public spaces, such as when you:

  • Shop for groceries or pick up food
  • Use public transit
  • Go to important appointments
  • Pick-up prescription medication

Right now we all have an important role to keep ourselves and our community safe.

BC has created a phone service to provide non-medical information about COVID-19, including the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing. Information is available in more than 110 languages, 7:30 am – 8 pm at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know might have symptoms of COVID-19, you can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help you decide if you need further testing.

Last updated: July 29, 2021

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