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Tips on physical distancing in public spaces

Published Jul 9, 2020


Cape Town - Bumping into a friend while grocery shopping or coming across your neighbour on your way out may be awkward during the pandemic with physical distancing feeling rather unusual.

The pandemic has brought a new way of life and coming across someone you know may be a little tricky with handshakes and hugs to be avoided and safe physical distancing to be maintained at all times.

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Physical distancing and the safety protocols that come with it go against our ordinary human nature, but it is important to practice such safety at all times, sometimes a bit awkward, but here are a couple of ways you could fix the situation.

Establish the rules with the simple elbow-to-elbow greeting

When first coming across someone you may know, a simple way to promote the idea of physical distancing without saying anything is by beginning the conversation with an elbow-to-elbow greeting and not a handshake or hug. This is a great way to establish physical distancing boundaries with the person you are speaking to from the get-go.

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Keep your conversations short and to a minimal

Yes, we may miss the social interaction and seeing our friends and family, but when bumping into them in a public space it is important to keep your interactions short and safe. It is fine to do a quick catch-up and finding out how they are doing but when you are starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with the length of the conversation try to politely dismiss the interaction with an excuse of running late and offer to catch up over the phone or video call later.

What to do when someone you are speaking to gets too close

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The pandemic is new to everyone and the new rules may sometimes be forgotten but in a situation where the person you are talking to gets too close, an easy way of reminding them can be done simply by mentioning the pandemic and how things have changed then simply following up by asking if we can just back up a bit. Sometimes folded arms during conversation may do the trick too. Body language comes off naturally and folded arms communicate that you are closed off by making you look less approachable.

Avoid anyone without a mask

Health and safety is the main priority and approaching or being approached by someone without a mask must be avoided at all times. Although it may be awkward depending on the situation, priorising your own well being is important and the importance of it must be communicated especially to those you know. Promise to catch up later on Whatsapp or video call.

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Physical distancing with someone you know well

Although we shouldn't, many are still finding ways of seeing their friends and family. Whether it's meeting up in a restaurant with the recent reopenings, meeting in a shopping mall or getting together for a jog or hike, it isn't advised but many are doing it. Just because you know the person well does not mean you should forget about the standard protocols such as keeping your facemask on and frequent hand sanitising. Remember to keep your distance too as such simple safety measures may be forgotten during the excitement of spending time with someone you have missed.

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