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Social Distance: Inside-out


Afzal Sayed Munna [FHEA, QTLS]:


Social distance or distancing became a prominent sentence/word in today’s life. Specially, due to the pandemic of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) increased cases the word become more common comparing to any other English word.

Social distance refers to the level of acceptance people have of others outside of their own social group or class. This level of acceptance is defined by their general feelings toward others, and the amount of social interaction they have with people whose characteristics are outside of their social norm. American Psychological Association defines social distancing as a means of keeping a safe distance (approximately 6 feet) from others and avoiding gathering spaces such as schools, churches, concert halls and public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also describes social distancing similarly as staying away from mass gatherings and keeping a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters – about one body length – away from other people.

According to World Economic Forum social distancing also means not touching other people, and that includes handshakes. Reluga (2010) explained Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that prevent disease transmission by reducing contact rates between susceptible individuals and infected individuals who may transmit the disease. According to the research article ‘’Game theory of social distancing’’, social distancing practices can reduce the severity of an epidemic, but the benefits of social distancing depend on the extent to which individuals use it. And it was also explained in another note that social distancing can never prevent 100% of transmissions, but by following these simple rules, individuals can play a critical role in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. If the number of cases isn’t kept below what the health care system can handle at any one time – called flattening the curve – hospitals could become overwhelmed, leading to unnecessary deaths and suffering. Castillo-Chavez et al (2005) addressed in the similar findings on their article ‘’ Effects of behavioural changes in a smallpox attack model’’ published on the Mathematical Biosciences which explains that, Social distancing is an aspect of human behaviour particularly important to epidemiology because of its universality; everybody can reduce their contact rates with other people by changing their behaviours, and reduced human contact reduces the transmission of many diseases. They claimed that theoretical work on social distancing has been stimulated by studies of agent-based influenza simulations indicating that small changes in behaviour can have large effects on transmission patterns during an epidemic. Isaacs and Galvani (1965 and 2010) attempted to formulate a differential game for individuals choosing their best social distancing practices relative to the aggregate behaviour of the population as a whole. The premise of the game is that at each point in the epidemic, people can choose to pay a cost associated with social distancing in exchange for a reduction in their risk of infection. The costs of an epidemic to the individual depend on the course of the epidemic and the individual’s strategy of social distancing. The probabilities that an individual is in the susceptible, infected, or removed state at time evolve. However, as with all game-theoretic models, human behaviour is unlikely to completely agree with equilibria for many reasons, including incomplete information about the epidemic and vaccine and strong prior beliefs that impede rational responses.

Self-isolate or Quarantine

Quarantine involves avoiding contact with others if a person has been exposed to coronavirus to see if they become ill. Isolation involves separating an individual who has contracted COVID-19 to prevent them from spreading it to others. Spending days or weeks at home with limited resources; stimulation and social contact can take a toll on mental health. Though controlled studies on interventions to reduce the psychological risks of quarantine and isolation are lacking, psychologists have established best practices for handling these challenging circumstances.

Common sources of stress during this period include a drop in meaningful activities, sensory stimuli and social engagement; financial strain from being unable to work; and a lack of access to typical coping strategies such as going to the gym or attending religious services. Psychologists’ research has found that during a period of social distancing, quarantine or isolation, you may experience: fear and anxiety, depression and boredom, anger, frustration or irritability and stigmatization (Brooks et al, 2020).

Stay home but stay virtually connected with others

Your face-to-face interactions may be limited, but psychologists suggest using phone calls, text messages, video chat and social media to access social support networks. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, use these conversations as an opportunity to discuss your experience and associated emotions. Reach out to those you knows who are in a similar situation. Facebook groups have already formed to facilitate communication and support among individuals asked to quarantine (Community, Local and National Level). Relying on pets for emotional support is another way to stay connected. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend restricting contact with pets if you contract COVID-19 until the risks of transmission between humans and animals are better understood. Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise in your home when you are physically capable of doing so. Try to avoid using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the stresses of isolation and quarantine. If needed, consider telehealth options for psychotherapy. If you already have a psychologist, contact them ahead of a potential quarantine to see if they can continue your sessions using phone-based or online delivery (Mental Health Guide, W.H.O, March 2020).

And finally, Stay Home-Save NHS-Save Life (NHS, UK)

Afzal Sayed Munna [FHEA, QTLS]

Lecturer, Module Leader and Program Coordinator at University of Wales Trinity Saint Davis, London