With the country, and indeed large parts of the world, under lockdown, it’s important to understand some of the terminology doing the rounds, and why governments across the world have implemented such strict measures for public safety.

There’s been much talk of social distancing and physical distancing – is there a difference?

Initially, when it became clear that people had to separate physically from one another if the spread of COVID-19 was to be stopped, the term ‘social distancing’ was used to describe the actions that people should take for their own safety, and that of others.

However, this phrase might have led some people to think that it was time to cut all social connections – connections that are in fact vital for our continued mental wellbeing in these very unusual times.

Our social circles are more important than ever, and even though it’s impossible for us to see our extended family and friends in person, there are so many ways we can connect. Download the Houseparty app and play games with your friends while you catch up, or even set up a Zoom meeting or Google Hangout so that you can keep in touch.

Focus rather on physical distancing by taking these measures – and remember that you can still be socially involved, like helping elderly or infirm neighbours by doing and delivering their shopping, while maintaining a physical distance:

  • Maintain a two-metre distance from anyone outside the people you’re in lockdown with, including shop assistants and other shoppers when you’re out buying necessities.
  • Wherever possible, shop alone. This will help alleviate crowding in shops, and make it possible for everyone to maintain that two-metre distance.
  • Only buy what you need. South Africa’s supply chain has been protected by the lockdown regulations, and panic buying is likely to leave you with things you don’t need, while others won’t be able to access their essentials.
  • Respect that retail workers are taking a risk to be at work to help you, so ensure you keep your distance, and thank them for what they’re doing. Now is not the time to bewail the longer shopping hours that you’re accustomed to – workers depend on minimised public transport to get to work and back home again.
  • Wherever possible, arrange food deliveries rather than heading out to the shops yourself. Delivery staff have been trained to maintain physical distancing when they deliver, and they have also been equipped with the personal protection equipment they need to stay safe.