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Ramaphosa has encouraged social distancing to curb the coronavirus, but what is it?

A Farmers Market stand is seen with a sign cautioning social distancing, in Los Angeles, California. Picture: Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters

A Farmers Market stand is seen with a sign cautioning social distancing, in Los Angeles, California. Picture: Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters

Published Mar 16, 2020


Cape Town - In his Covid-19 address to the nation on Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa listed Cabinet's measures to encourage social distancing, but what does that mean?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), social distancing is maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

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"When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the Covid-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease," said WHO on their website.

Benedetta Allegranzi from WHO's Infection Prevention and Control Unit emphasised the importance of keeping a distance between someone with a fever or cough. 

"You should avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing people with these symptoms. If you need to take care of a person who has fever, cough or difficulty breathing, do not forget to wear a mask and in particular, to practise hand hygiene."  

The theory is that the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

In a public sphere, social distancing includes the cancellation of celebrations, sports games and any other sort of gatherings. 

Social distancing in the workplace means working remotely if needed, no handshakes as a greeting, holding meetings via video conferencing or phone call and holding essential meetings outside in the open air if possible. It is advisable to clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly and to limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace.

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Social distancing in schools entails keeping children at home if necessary, sanitising hands when entering the school and at regular intervals and avoid activities that lead to mixing between grades. School assemblies and sports events are usually cancelled.

Ramaphosa announced the following measures to encourage social distancing in South Africa: 

- Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited. 

- Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled. 

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- Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control. 

- Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter Weekend. To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week. 

- Government is working closely with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as Parliament, prisons, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control. 

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- Visits to all correctional centres are suspend for 30 days with immediate effect. 

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's


** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999


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Cyril Ramaphosa