Maintain ‘physical distance’, not ‘social distance’

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Photo by cottonbro on

By now, most of us must be familiar with the term ‘social distancing’. However, late last week, officials of the WHO (World Health Organisation) suggested that we use the word ‘physical distancing‘ rather than ‘social distancing’.

I completely agree with this. The COVID-19 pandemic is taking many of us into chartered territories. News reports today suggested that 1 in 5 of the global population is in some form of ‘lock-down’. People all over the world have been advised to stay at home as much as possible. Many states in India, where I live, have imposed curfew-like conditions.

These are undoubtedly stressful times. And it is precisely at times like these that we need to reach out and connect (virtually) with fellow humans. ‘Social distancing’ implied moving away from others, both physically and socially. But what is required is actually maintaining physical distance while connecting socially over appropriate channels.

I had a couple of ‘virtual’ family get-togethers over the weekend. It was the first time we were doing so. And it was a great success. Participation was 100% in one group and close to 100% in the other. There was some confusion initially on how to structure the conversations. But we quickly arrived at some semblance of order and the conversations started flowing. For sure, it was not quite the same as getting together in a common area, but I was pleasantly surprised at how close to a physical get-together the experience was.

The other option is of course to call a friend or family member. We tend to forget connecting with friends and family regularly during normal times (and I am especially guilty of this). But these are not normal times. So yes, we should all try to call and speak with one more person daily than we might otherwise have.

All reports suggest that we might have to continue in this near lock-down like situation for a few more weeks. Maintain ‘social connections’ while keeping a ‘physical distance’ might just be the way to hold on to some degree of normalcy in these trying times.


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