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What is physical distancing?

It is a way all of us can help slow the spread of COVID-19. It means limiting our physical contact with others by staying away from crowded places where a virus can easily spread. Even if you are not sick, you should still try to keep about 2 meters (the width of a car) away from others when outside your home. Physical distancing is also called social distancing. But you shouldn’t distance yourself from others emotionally during this time. Reach out to friends, family and community members with, phone calls, texting, social media and video chat. Stay connected.

How does social distancing help?

Social distancing means staying at least 2 meters away from others. It includes:

  • limiting large groups of people coming together
  • closing buildings
  • cancelling events

We do things like these to slow the spread of this virus and protect people who are at high risk for serious infection. We all need to do our part. If we practice 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. This is sometimes referred to as “flattening the curve.” 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 get together less with others in everyday life. If you live and work with others, it is still okay to interact with them if:

  1. They are not sick
  2. Have not been around someone who is sick
  3.  They do not have a weakened immune system

Self-monitoring is watching yourself for signs of illness such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.  

Self-isolation or self-quarantine is staying at home and limiting contact with others for 10 days. The BC Ministry of Health strongly urges anyone who has the  following symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days.

  • fever
  • cough
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • difficulty breathing

For more information on COVID-19, refer to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website.

How do I practice social distancing?

It’s important to limit your contact with others, but you can still leave your home, if you need to. If you decide to go out, stay 2 meters (6 ft.) away from others and wash your hands often. 

Things you can do at home:

Do a little something for yourself, like:

  • 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 2m 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 to:

  • 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 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: April 7, 2020

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