What’s the difference between quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing?
By now we have all heard the words “quarantine”, “self-isolation”, and “social distancing” multiple times across various news and social media platforms. While these terms are all quite similar to each other, it’s important to know the distinction for each term, and what guidelines you should, therefore, be following.
Jump to tips and guidelines for:
At this time, as ordered by our provincial and federal governments, everybody should be practicing social distancing. This means, you should:
Keep a distance of at least 2 metres or 6 feet (approximately
2 arm lengths) from anyone outside your household.
Limit contact with “high risk” individuals, like older
adults and those with underlying health conditions.
Limit outings to grocery stores – preferably once a week.
Avoid crowded places and non-essential gatherings.
Avoid common greetings, such as handshakes.
Quarantining separates and restricts the movement of people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease (COVID-19) to see if they fall ill. It is an important precautionary measure.
It is mandated by the government for a period of 14 days if:
- You are returning from travel outside of Canada.
- You’ve been told by public health authority that you may have been exposed and need to quarantine despite being asymptomatic.
- You have had close contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Things to do:
Stay at home + monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough and
shortness of breath. If symptoms develop, call 811 or your health care provider to see if you should be tested and for further guidance.
Wash hands regularly, avoid touching your face and wipe down
Practice social distancing in your home by staying at least 2 metres away from other household members.
Typically considered more acute than quarantine, self-isolation separates sick people with COVID-19 from people who are not sick.
It is necessary if:
- You’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are waiting to hear the results of a lab test for COVID-19
- You have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild
- You have returned from travel outside Canada with symptoms of COVID-19 (mandatory)
- You’ve been told by public health authority that you may have been exposed and need to isolate.
Things to do:
If you live with others, isolate yourself in one room.
If this isn’t possible, maintain at least a 6 foot circle of space around you.
Use separate bowls/plates/cutlery/utensils + use kitchen at different times.
Minimize time spent in shared spaces.
Use separate bathroom from rest of household if possible.
Wear a mask at home when in the same room as others
and when someone brings you food and necessities.
Wash hands after interacting with others. Use soap and water.
If that’s not possible, use hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes.
Wipe down surfaces such as door knobs, cellphones, computers, countertops and other areas touched.
Monitor symptoms and if they worsen call your health care
provider or local hospital immediately for further instruction.
As always, check reliable, government sources for the most up-to-date information. This is an evolving crisis and advice changes from time to time.
- Provincial/Territorial Health Authorities
- Canadian Centre for Disease Control
- BC Centre for Disease Control
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