Social distancing is a phrase that has quickly entered the public lexicon, but many experts, including the WHO, are shifting away from the phrase “social distancing” to “physical distancing”.
It’s absolutely essential to “...create physical distance between everybody because you don’t know exactly who might have the virus,” says WHO’s Dr. Michael Ryan. As WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove points out, “physical distancing” comes from a desire to highlight “keeping physical distance from people so that we can prevent the virus from transferring to one another.” However, “it doesn’t mean that socially we have to disconnect from our loved ones, from our family. Technology right now has advanced so greatly that we can keep connected in many ways without actually physically being in the same room or physically being in the same space.”
“We’re changing to say physical distance and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected. So find ways to do that, find ways through the internet and through different social media to remain connected because your mental health going through this is just as important as your physical health.”
WHO’s Dr. Euros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agrees, reminding the public to “look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help. Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them.”
He also explains that "physical distance doesn't mean social distance. We all need to check in regularly on older parents, neighbours, friends or relatives who live alone or in care homes in whatever way is possible, so they know how much they are loved and valued. All of these things are important at any time, but they are even more important during a crisis".
This is also echoed in an opinion piece by CNN, when we practice physical distancing, we need social connectivity and social responsibility more than ever. Health officials are not recommending social disconnection, social exclusion, or rampant individualism. While physical distancing can give us a fighting chance of combating this virus, finding creative and socially responsible ways to build meaningful community and connection in crisis can have positive and long-lasting effects on our communities.
Support each other through telephone, social media, text, video chat, and even gaming. If you are able to work from home, consider taking the time you would have spent commuting to reach out to family, friends, and neighbours —even and especially those who might not have heard from you in a while.
Let’s socially stay connected while we’re physically apart!!
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