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What is the difference between ‘physical distancing’ and ‘social distancing’?
What is the difference between ‘physical distancing’ and ‘social distancing’?
Olivier Mills avatar
Written by Olivier Mills
Updated over a week ago

At the beginning of this pandemic, Public Health Authorities recommended keeping social distancing as one of the key preventive measures for the spread of COVID-19. As the magnitude of the pandemic grew exponentially and confusion developed around the term, leading experts (including the WHO) deferred to using the term physical distancing instead of social distancing.

The main reason for this is to emphasize that keeping physical distance from each other to prevent the spread of the disease does not mean that we have to socially disconnect from our loved ones, such as our family and friends. We still need to feel connected, particularly in these tough times, as the psychological effects of being apart can be substantial.

We recommend that you use the term ‘physical distancing’ when working with communities and remind them of the need to stay connected through other means.

Want to learn more about physical distancing and COVID-19?

Editors' note

Author: Eva Manzano and Sam Gil (CAWST)

Reviewed by: Max Friedrich, Miriam Harter, Ben Tidwell.
Last update: 30.03.2021

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