Changing social distancing measures is something that we have all had to adapt and get used to for the majority of this year. Unfortunately, being socially distanced is the new normal that we all have had to adjust to so that we can keep those that we love safe.
- General Advice
- Tips for Social Distancing
- In the Workplace
- At Home
- When on Public Transport
- Playing Sports
- Looking After Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
As the rules have changed as circumstances have changed, it can be tricky to keep up with the rules so that you remain safe and do not get into any trouble. This is why we have written this article with advice on social distancing measures for when at work, home (cleaning tips), on public transport, and when playing team sports. We want to make sure that we are all keeping safe so having all of this information in one place will allow you to refer back and see the measures that apply to you wherever you are.
While you are here, it is also important to stress how you can look after your mental health and wellbeing while socially distancing and what to do if you need help. This is why we have included some information on how to keep your mental health in a good condition, as it is just as important as your physical health.
According to the NHS (2020) there are certain things to do and not to do that will help yourself and others to reduce the risk of getting ill with Coronavirus. It is important to note that you can spread the virus even if you do not have symptoms so follow the guidelines where necessary and stay inside if you have been exposed to someone with the virus.
The following are a general set of guidelines on how to stay safe and practice social distancing when out of your home. These are mainly focussed on cleanliness and how to make sure that you are avoiding the spread of infection by keeping your hands clean and not coming into contact with too many people outside of your household.
- Try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you sneeze or cough
- Put used tissues in the bin immediately after coughing or sneezing and then wash your hands
- Where a face covering when instructed to outside of your home (for example in supermarkets)
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean
- Meet socially with more than 6 people that are not in your support bubble
- Take off your face covering to speak to people when you have been instructed to wear one
- Go out if you think that you have any symptoms of Coronavirus
So that this guide is as clear as possible on social distancing measures, it is important to be reminded of the symptoms to look out for so that you can help to reduce the risk of infection.
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Most people with coronavirus have at least 1 of these symptoms (NHS 2020).
What to do if you have symptoms:
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
- Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
- You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started (NHS 2020).
Current Government Campaign
The current way that the government is trying to ensure we all stay safe is through the campaign ‘Hands. Face. Space.’This is all about encouraging people to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, to cover your face with a face protector to reduce the risk of respiratory droplets lingering in the air, and to make space by keeping at least 2 metres apart.
Social distancing measures are around to keep us all safe. They may seem inconvenient sometimes but by following all of the rules you are contributing to reducing the risk of infection, and therefore protecting yourself and your family.
We have a few tips that may help you to grasp the new normal that we are all facing and to keep you and others safe when outside the home.
- Know before you go
As there are different rules for different parts of the country, a large part of keeping safe is doing your research before you go anywhere to check the local social distancing measures and guidance.
- Think about transport
Before you set off anywhere, think about how you are travelling and the best ways to stay safe while doing so. When using public transport make sure that you are following guidelines and wearing a face covering or consider using a different method such as cycling or walking where possible.
- Limit the amount of trips
When running errands or going to the supermarket wait until it is absolutely necessary to go to avoid leaving the house too often. This means that you can get everything you need in one go rather than going out multiple times to limit social contact with those outside of your household.
- Choose safe social activities
Where possible, keep socialised with those you love through the internet and only meet with the recommended number of people in a safe, open space. Avoid events and gatherings by keeping the number of people that you see to a minimum so that everyone you care about remains safe.
- Stay distanced when being active too
It is still important to get exercise, even with the social distancing measures in place. It is a good idea to try and exercise alone rather than in a group by going on walks, runs, bike rides e.c.t rather than playing contact sports. There are also home workouts available online for free that will help to keep you healthy too.
In the Workplace
Different workplaces are, of course, going to have different social distancing measures depending on the type of work that the business does. For example, if you work in an office at a desk this is extremely different to if you work at a construction site.
Because there are so many different working environments, we are going to give a rough guide of what social distancing may look like while working as per the current guidelines. This includes how you feel about going to work and what is acceptable or not to expect from you.
The general advice is that anyone who can effectively work from home should do so. Saying that, if a workplace is open, they should be following government guidelines on making the workplace safe, limiting use of public transport at busy times, and have the opportunity to wash hands often.
What Employers Should Do
An employer has a duty to make sure that staff are safe and taken care of. Not only does this duty apply to staff but also customers and anyone else that visits the workplace. This includes doing what they can to make sure that everyone’s well being is supported by:
- Encouraging staff to work from home where possible
- Making sure that staff working from home have the correct equipment and software necessary for them to do their job
- Have completed a risk assessment and taken precautions to prevent harm in the workplace
- Following the government guidelines on safer working (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19)
- Checking in with staff mental health
- Keep in regular contact in terms of any changes
The government guidelines outline the legal requirements for different sectors as well as advice and guidance to ensure that staff are well looked after and are within their rights.
It is also the duty of an employer to check in on their staff to see how they are feeling in terms of their mental health and well being. This includes providing staff with information on support internally as well as external sources that may be helpful (for example, pointing them in the direction of the Mind website).
As per everywhere else, staff members must stay 2 metres apart from each other where possible. This may mean that businesses need to enact one way systems, put up screens, put in barriers, or ask staff to wear face coverings.
Different measures will apply to different businesses and buildings, however the main point is to keep people safe, the 2 metre distance rule must be strictly adhered to as it reduces the risk of infection.
Social distancing does not really apply to your home as this is where you are safe from the risk of infection. It is, however, important to make sure that you are washing your hands as soon as you enter your home for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
As well as washing your hands, you are going to want to clean surfaces and doorhandles more regularly. Doing this will protect you from any potential germs that have been brought into the house unknowingly as there are areas in the home that we touch more than others.
There are areas in the home that you come in contact with regularly during day-to-day life that should be taken care of to ensure that germs are not spread around the house. The following are examples of the areas that are touched often:
- Door handles
- Appliance handles ex. Fridge, oven, and microwave handle
- Light switches
- Faucets and sinks
- Toilet flusher
- Staircase railing
- Computer keyboard and mouse
- Handheld electronics and remotes ex. Games controller, TV remote, phones, tablets
- Kitchen surfaces
There are, of course, other surfaces and areas of the house that need to be cleaned often, especially during this uncertain time. Therefore, we must stress the importance of cleaning and using the right cleaning products that kill COVID-19.
Using cleaning products that are anti-bacterial will help to remove the germs but will not kill them. If you are wanting to make sure that all surfaces and ‘touch points’ in your home are free from germs, then you will need to disinfect them.
There are store-bought cleaners that will do the job for you, including telling you how long to leave the cleaner on the surface for and the best way to remove it. There are, however, more DIY options that you can do yourself too.
Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface that needs cleaning. This will be effective against Coronavirus if the bleach is properly diluted and used as followed:
The bleach must contain 5.25–8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use a bleach product if the percentage is not in this range or is not specified. This is to keep everyone safe as large amounts of chemicals can be dangerous if not used properly.
It is of course important to follow the manufacturers instructions, ensuring that the product is on the surface for the recommended amount of time so that it can be used effectively.
Also make sure that the bleach is within it’s expiry date and check online before you start mixing bleach with other cleaners as this can create dangerous fumes. The best way to dilute the bleach is with room temperature water as this solution is safe in that it does not emit fumes and will also get the job done.
When on Public Transport
Occasionally, there are times where using public transport is unavoidable. It is advised to try and use a different method of transport, however, there are precautions to think about if you do need to use public transport.
According to gov.uk (2020), there are certain things that you can do to help control Coronavirus, including:
- Checking the local COVID alert level before travelling
- Observing social distancing rules
- Wearing a face covering at all times when on public transport
- Washing or sanitising your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face, mouth and eyes
- Avoiding the busiest routes, as well as times such as rush hour
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing
- Travel side by side or behind other people, not opposite
- Downloading the official NHS COVID-19 app (if possible) before you travel to check in with the QR code when you see the posters
It also is advised that you should definitely not travel if you:
- Are experiencing any of the Coronavirus symptoms
- Share a household or support bubble with someone who has symptoms
- Are clinically vulnerable and live in an area where additional public health measures mean you have been advised to resume shielding
- Have been told by the NHS Test and Trace service or COVID-19 app to self-isolate
It is so important to stress that if you have been told to shield but do not have symptoms you should not leave your house or go on any public transport. You may not be showing symptoms but are still able to pass on the virus to someone else, therefore it is important to stay inside until instructed.
The current law states that you must wear a face covering while on public transport in England. This includes:
- Bus or coach
- Train or tram
- Taxi or other private hire vehicle
- Cable car
As well as wearing a face covering while on the transport, you also must wear it in the enclosed areas of transport hubs such as rail stations and airports. This ensures everyone’s safety so if you are refusing to wear a face covering, you could find yourself facing a fine.
There are, however, some who are exempt from wearing a face covering due to their age, health condition, or disability so also be aware and be respectful as not everyone is able to wear a face covering.
Checklists for Safer Travel
Below are a couple checklists for safer travel that are on the gov.uk website. They summarise what we have discussed here so that you can check if you are safe to travel and so that you are prepared for your journey.
- Plan your journey
- Can you walk or cycle to your destination?
- Have you checked the local COVID alert level for your area and the area you are travelling to?
- Have you checked the latest travel advice from your transport operator?
- Have you booked your travel ticket online, bought a pass or checked if contactless payment is possible?
- Have you planned your journey to minimise crowded areas and allow for delays?
- Are you taking the most direct route to your destination?
- Have you downloaded the NHS COVID-19 app, if you have a smartphone?
What to take with you:
- A face covering – for longer journeys, take more than one face covering and a plastic bag for used face coverings
- A plan for the journey
- Tickets, contactless payment card or pass
- Phone, if needed for travel updates, tickets, contactless payments
- Hand sanitiser
- Essential medicines
There are social distancing measures on playing sports outside of the home. This means that if exercising you can do so with up to 5 other people that are not from your household, in-keeping with the 6-person rule that is currently being enforced. Saying that, the government still advices that you keep 2 metres apart from the people that are outside of your home, even when exercising.
Different facilities have different rules in terms of equipment and hiring. For example, many gyms are asking that you book a time slot to go and workout in so that they are not crowded at different hours of the day. There are also facilities such as golf courses that either require you to clean the equipment before use or bring your own.
Facilities have different rules, so it is worth checking by either looking at the facility website or ringing up to avoid disappointment. They will, however, all comply to social distancing measures such as insisting that people keep 2 metres apart, having screens to protect staff, and cleaning all surfaces regularly.
In terms of organised, or group, sporting activities the rules are different. Organised outdoor sport is stull currently exempt from legal gathering limits, meaning that organised outdoor team sport and outdoor exercise classes, as well as outdoor licensed physical activity, can happen in any number as long as undertaken in line with published COVID-secure guidance.
Organised indoor sport, however, is different depending on the area alert rating put in place by the government. In areas with a medium alert rating, organised indoor team sport should only take place in groups of up to 6 people.
Other organised indoor sport, including indoor exercise classes, can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided that participants are in separate groups of up to 6 people which do not mix with other groups.
In areas with a high or very high alert rating, organised indoor sport, including team and individual sport and exercise classes, can only take place between people from the same household. Where it is likely that people will mix with others they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), these activities should not take place.
Looking After Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
As we have said, looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. Our mental health has a dramatic effect on how we deal with certain situations, therefore during this stressful and uncertain time it is crucial that we keep our minds healthy.
Social distancing measures can easily make you feel alone, but you need to realise that you are not. Many people will be feeling deflated at the moment so it is important to check in with loved ones too, you will be able to help each other.
Here are a few tips to help you with your mental health in this time where there is so much stress on physical health.
- Try to avoid speculation and rumours
Speculation and rumours are perfect fuel for anxiety. Making sure that any information that you access about the virus comes from trustworthy sources will help you to feel more in control and less anxious about what you see, hear or read.
- Stay connected
Speak to loved ones over the internet or by calling them to stay connected with those that you love. You may not be able to see them in person but catching up while you both have a cup of tea is better than nothing! Staying connected is a great way to help you from feeling anxious or alone.
- Exercise and eat well
Keeping your body active will help to release all those good endorphins that keep your mind happy too. Doing exercise while listening to music, a book, or a podcast is also a great way to distract you, all while doing something beneficial to all areas of the body.
Making sure that you have a balanced diet and are drinking enough water will also help you to feel better as unhealthy patterns can lead to both mental health and physical health problems.
- Take time to relax
Some people have gotten into puzzles during this year, others yoga or colouring or reading. There are so many different activities that you can try that will relax your mind and take the pressure off that you may be feeling.
Trying different activities and relaxation techniques will also help you to get a good nights sleep which we all know dramatically effects how we feel during the day.
If you do find your mental health and wellbeing slipping due to social distancing measures or just the situation we have found ourselves in generally then there are places that you can go either online or in person that can help.Every Mind Matters from the NHS or the Mind charity website have great resources that hopefully will help you if you are feeling blue. You can also get in contact with your GP who may be able to refer you to a specialist for further support if you feel you need it.
There is so much advice out there on social distancing measures, it is hard to keep up! By reading this guide you have the current information that will help you to stay safe when outside whether that be for work, to travel, or to play sports.
Remember that there are different social distancing measures for different areas of the country now so check what the guidelines are in your area, or if you are planning on traveling then check the area you are going to.
In general, it is good practice to regularly wash your hands thoroughly, clean the surfaces in your home and be respectful of others when out and about. Keeping all of this in mind will help to reduce the risk of infection and will keep you and your family safe.