By: Shaina Semaña
Malacañang issued a memorandum on stringent social distancing measures and guidelines on March 14, 2020, in the light of the current coronavirus situation in the country. To control the spread of the virus, the guidelines include suspension of classes and all school activities, prohibition of mass gatherings, implementing alternative work arrangement, restriction in land, air and see travel, and even implementing an 8pm-curfew in some cities in Metro Manila.
Other countries around the world have also implemented Social Distancing measures, including the US, Italy, Japan, and China among many. International tech and business summits and big events such as the Coachella, Boston Marathon, pilgrimage travel to the holy city of Mecca are being halted and even the 2020 Olympics happening in Tokyo is also in the talks of being postponed—to follow the social distancing measures.
But, what does Social Distancing actually mean? Does it mean people should avoid all public activities and just stay indoors forever? Live like hermit? Is it something that restricts us from doing a lot of things?
Social Distancing is a nonpharmaceutical effort implemented by public health officials to lessen or slow down the spread of contagious diseases. The idea is to lessen human interaction to avoid transmission of diseases to lower down morbidity and mortality rate of a specific disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) included Social Distancing as one of the Basic Protective Measures Against the New Coronavirus in its COVID-19 Advice to Public. Specifically, WHO recommended to avoid close contact and maintain at least 3 feet between people—especially those with fever, cough, or any other respiratory symptoms.
Origins of Social Distancing trace back to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which is considered one of the deadliest epidemics in the human history, infecting over 500 million people. The contrasting situation in the cities of Philadelphia and St. Louis in the US during the said pandemic is one of the earliest recorded examples of Social Distancing. During the height of the pandemic, Philadelphia threw a parade infecting thousands of people in just a couple of days. Meanwhile, city of St. Louis immediately suspended classes and offices and prohibited public gatherings which resulted to a much lesser morbidity and mortality rate in the city. These events show the known term ‘flattening of the curve’, which basically means the numbers of cases decreases after Social Distancing measures are implemented, giving health official ample time to deal with the disease.
Over the years, effectiveness of Social Distancing was tested and proven during different outbreaks throughout the world like the Asian flu in the 50s and SARS outbreak in 2000s. However, despite its proven efficiency, there are still some cons attributed to Social Distancing. One is the lack of productivity in schools and workforce, given that most schools and offices are shut down. Aside from this, there are studies that show isolation as one of the drawbacks of Social Distancing. As a society, face-to-face interaction is important. So, limiting social interaction can bring inevitable loneliness to some people.
Presently, there are various ways of how people around the world are dealing with Social Distancing. Some are not totally in agreement with it, saying isolation is a little bit too much for them. But, since most countries have made it a mandatory, it’s leaving people with no choice anyway. While some are panic buying a mix of necessary and unnecessary goods.
For a time when we’re supposed to be a little bit more lowkey, there are surely a lot of things going on around—making Social Distancing more productive and even fun. For one, a lot of schools a opting for online classes, proving the fact there can be productivity in Social Distance.
And, while a lot of young people turn to Tiktok, there are a lot of other who were able to make fun in this Social Distancing. Neighborhoods in Italy—which is one of the countries with the biggest number of COVID-19 cases and is under a country-wide lockdown—have found their way to make Social Distancing a little bit lighter with musical flash mobs. People are seen out on their balconies, singing and playing instruments along with popular Italian songs.
How about you? What are your Social Distancing plans?