Coronavirus: What are social distancing and self-isolation?

The government says it is prepared to take “more action” if people do not follow its advice to limit the spread of coronavirus when they have to leave their homes.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that some people’s behaviour was “very selfish”.

What should I be doing?

Everybody in the UK has been asked to stop non-essential contact and stay at home wherever possible. If people do go outside – to buy food for example – they must stay more than 2m (6.5ft) apart from others.

To prevent people getting too close, cafes, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres are all closing.

The move is part of the UK’s social distancing measures to minimise non-essential contact. By keeping a safe distance from other people, it becomes much harder for the disease to spread.

It follows people with flu-like symptoms – such as a dry cough and high temperature – being asked to self-isolate at home to avoid infecting others.

Can I go for a walk on a sunny day?

Even though people are being urged to stay at home, Mr Hancock says “it is important that people get exercise, but they should do it staying away from others”.

Public Health England (PHE) says: “You can go for a walk or exercise outside if you stay more than 2m from others.”

However, in many crowded parks or beauty spots it would be difficult to stay the necessary distance apart, so some authorities have taken action.

London’s Hammersmith and Fulham Council has shut all parks across the borough and other parks across the capital are being closed.

Elsewhere, car parks and trails in Snowdonia may also close as many people have gone walking there. The National Trust has also been closing parks and gardens.

Dr Robin Thompson, from the University of Oxford, says: “The key thing is to exercise while minimising contacts. Local footpaths are likely to be less crowded than walks through major parks.”

Why is social distancing necessary?

Social distancing is important because coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or can cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.

The less time people spend together, the less chance there is of this happening.

Everyone is now being told to follow social distancing measures, especially the over-70s, pregnant women and adults normally eligible for a flu jab.

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