COVID-19 and social distancing explained: 10 things you really shouldn’t do


If you’re wondering what the science behind social distancing is, we’ve got it here. But there are many things we should stop doing to combat coronavirus.

These extraordinary times have called for extraordinary measures. This week has seen President Ramaphosa advise citizens to practice “social distancing”, as South Africa clamps down on international travel and casual interactions amid the coronavirus crisis. The country, like certain other parts of the world, faces a form of ‘lockdown’.

Why social distancing is used to fight coronavirus

But why is it so important for us to completely restrict the way we interact with others? Well, that is best explained by LiveScience – the online journal keeping us all up to date with the spread of COVID-19. They reason that social distancing helps control the number of people who get sick at any given time. Hospitals only have so much capacity to deal with these cases, and self-isolation helps reduce demand significantly:

“The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local health care system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people. As we’re seeing in Italy, more and more new patients may be forced to go without ICU beds, and more and more hospitals may run out of the basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak.”

“A flatter curve, on the other hand, assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time. A slower infection rate means a less stressed health care system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.”

In theory, the same number of patients could get infected even with controls in place. But delaying the infections for most of the population will allow us all to receive proper treatment without overwhelming health services – Photo: LiveScience

What are we allowed to do during social distancing?

On Monday evening, the South African government posted a list of acceptable – and not so acceptable – things to do while this period of social distancing remains in force. The list itself is inadvertently comical…

We now have “government permission” to stay in our gardens. “Streaming shows” is now serving as state-mandated advice (not that we needed any help with this). And, incredibly, “mass transit systems” are listed as something which must be avoided – even though they haven’t been banned yet.

Coronavirus latest – ten things to avoid

Working on a traffic light system, some activities are in the red (which must be halted) and others are in the green (they can still be done). “Amber activities” tentatively advise citizens to exercise caution. Anyway, now we’ve got our patronising explanation of how traffic lights work out of the way, here’s what we can – and can’t – do during these testing times:

Avoid (Red) Use Caution (Amber) Safe To Do (Green)
Group gatherings Going to restaurants Take a walk
Sleepovers Getting takeaways Go hiking
Children’s play-dates Picking up medication Gardening or frequenting your garden
Concerts Visiting the library Cleaning (actual government advice, this)
Theatre outings Attending religious services Reading books
Sporting and athletic events Essential travel Listening to music
Crowded retail malls Cooking meals
Gyms and workout facilities Small family gatherings (e.g, games night)
Having ‘non-essential workers’ in your house Going for a casual drive
Using mass transit systems Watch television, or stream shows at home
Check on friends or neighbours