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 COVID 19 by those who 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? 

There are no proven pharmaceutical treatments (vaccines, medication, etc.) for COVID 19 yet, so we must rely on these traditional public health protocols to keep people safe. This is currently our best line of defence against COVID 19, but it only works if everyone does their part.