Social distancing vs self-isolation: The official guidance on staying safe during the coronavirus outbreak

The below guidance and advice has been issued by Public Health Wales and the UK Government.

More information can be found on the PHW website.

Everyone in Wales has been told to follow social distancing guidelines as governments try to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

But certain groups and those with underlying health conditions have been told to strictly adhere to those measures to ensure they are further protected.

And for those who experience symptoms of Covid-19, or live with those who do, they have been told to completely self-isolate.

So, what is the difference between the two? And how do you make sure you have what you need if you have been told to self-isolate?

Seats are marked out in Jakarta to make sure people are adhering to social distancing measures Credit: PA
  • Social distancing

Public Health Wales says that we should all be taking social distancing measures to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The following guidance is intended for use in situations where people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Watch this video as Rob Osborne explains the differences - with the help of his mum - and colleague Charanpreet Khaira.

The first and most important piece of information is to avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus.

These symptoms include a high temperature and/or a new and continuous cough.

Non-essential use of public transport is being advised

Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.

Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. More information on this can be found in the employer guidance section on the UK Government website.

Avoid large gatherings, especially those in smaller public places such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres bars and clubs.

Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

Some useful videos have been appeared on social media explaining how effective social distancing can be.

Public Health Wales says for those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, they are strongly advised to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to "significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible."

The guidance remains to continue washing hands and Credit: PA

To also help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the advice remains to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

  • Self-isolation

The official government advice is that if you live alone and start having symptoms of coronavirus, however mild, you must stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

Public Health Wales issued this timeline to advise when to stay home and for how long if someone develops symptoms Credit: Public Health Wales

It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.

Public Health Wales
During self-isolation, you should not leave the house even to buy food Credit: PA

During self-isolation, you should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, other than to exercise, and in that case, keep a safe distance from others.

If not possible, then you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.

Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.

What if you live with elderly or vulnerable people?

If possible, move anyone who is elderly or who has an underlying health condition out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.

Public Health Wales says if that is not possible, you must stay away from them as much as possible.

Try and minimise time spent with vulnerable family members in communal spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas - and keep shared spaces well-ventilated.

Keep these shared spaces as clean as possible, and avoid using kitchen worktops and spaces at the same time.

What about children?

Research so far suggests children with coronavirus appear to be less severely affected, but it is advised to stick to the advice as much as possible.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission Credit: PA

Can I breastfeed while I am infected?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, but infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone you get into close contact with.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of the virus through breast milk or by being in close contact; however, this will be an individual decision and can be discussed with your midwife, health visitor or GP by telephone.

Public Health Wales

Do I have to do laundry differently?

All dirty laundry can be washed in the same load Credit: PA

To minimise the possibility of dispersing virus through the air, do not shake dirty laundry.

Wash items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. All dirty laundry can be washed in the same load.

If you do not have a washing machine, wait a further 72 hours after your 7-day (for individual isolation) or 14-day isolation period (for households) has ended when you can then take the laundry to a public launderette.

Who do I tell that I am self-isolating?

Tell your employer, if applicable and also friends and family so they can help you if you need essential supplies including food while you are staying at home.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home and testing for coronavirus will not take place if you are at home.

If your symptoms do not improve or if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms, then use the NHS Direct 111 online coronavirus service.

It is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.

Public Health Wales

Can I prepare for self-isolation?

It is advised that you think now about how you can adapt your daily routine if you find yourself in self-isolation.

Talk to your neighbours and family and exchange phone numbers in case you need assistance or support.

Plan for those in your home who are considered vulnerable and set up online shopping accounts if possible.

Facemasks do not provide an effective means of preventing the spread of infection other than in clinical settings Credit: PA

Will wearing a facemask help?

Public Health Wales says it does not recommend the use of facemasks as an "effective means of preventing the spread of infection."

Facemasks play an important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of benefit from their use outside of these settings.

Public Health Wales

How to look after your wellbeing

Staying indoors for an extended period of time can be frustrating and lonely for a lot of people and can leave other people living in your house feeling low.

It can be even more difficult if you do not have much outdoor space or access to a garden.

Try and stay occupied by doing activities such as reading, cooking, online learning and light exercise if you feel well enough.

Baking can help pass the time and maintain your mental wellbeing Credit: PA
Light exercise can help if you feel well enough Credit: PA

It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if you need it. Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media. There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as the https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/.

Public Health Wales

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: