Physical distancing, self-quarantine and isolation: what's the difference?

Physical distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation are often used in the media, but what do they really mean?

Physical distancing

Physical distancing (also known as social distancing), involves staying 6 feet (2 meters) away from others and avoiding crowds.


If you have likely come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 or have travelled abroad recently, you are asked to self-quarantine. Self-quarantine involves separating yourself from others by staying in one room in your house, and not sharing things like cutlery or towels, while closely monitoring your symptoms for 14 days. This period is essential for limiting the spread of the virus by those who might have COVID-19 but don’t know it yet.


If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you are asked to isolate yourself from people without COVID 19, either at home or at the hospital if you require urgent medical treatment. It is essential that you do not leave your house for any reason.

Why are we doing this? 

These traditional public health protocols to keep people safe and minimize the spread of the virus. This is currently our best line of defence against COVID-19, but it only works if everyone does their part. In the future, vaccines and pharmaceutical treatments will help reduce the severity of illness brought on by COVID-19.