Social distancing and shared spaces
Hello. I’m Sarah Bellars and I am the Director of Quality and Nursing for the Frimley Collaborative which is responsible for commissioning services to provide the best possible care for patients from Slough in Berkshire to Farnham in Surrey.
I have been a nurse for thirty years, twenty of which have been as an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse.
I wanted to take this opportunity to write about things we can do to help keep ourselves, our friends, families and colleagues well by reducing the risk of catching the coronavirus.
For the last couple of months, everyone who wasn’t an essential worker has been staying at home, except for brief journeys to the shops, to exercise or for medical reasons. When we have gone out, we have been asked to stay two metres apart from others as part of government guidelines. We’ve been crossing the street when we see someone coming, giving way to others and so on.
It is so important that we continue to practice these social-distancing methods even now that lockdown restrictions are easing. It can be so easy, and there is almost a comfort, to go back to how things were before coronavirus, but doing so while the virus is still out there, could have serious consequences for all of us.
The virus affects different people in different ways, so while one person might experience mild symptoms – or none at all – a person they infect could become seriously ill or even die.
So how can we stay safe out of lockdown?
There are different ways in which bugs like Coronavirus can spread.
Typically, when someone talks, coughs or sneezes, droplets travel in the air for up to around two metres, before falling to the ground. If you walk into this space, you are increasing your chances of catching the bug. That is why all social distancing messages focus on this magic number. So, as the rules relax, and if you do go out to work or shopping, please remember to keep two metres apart from others.
If someone else comes into your two-metre space and it looks like you can’t avoid them, turn so that your eyes, nose and mouth are facing away from them.
The second way bugs spread is through contact surfaces. If you go grocery shopping and place your hands on a contaminated surface, that bug is then transmitted to your skin and everything you touch as you then begin to contaminate surfaces. If you then touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, you have increased your chances of being infected. This is why you may have heard or seen messages advising you not to touch your face, or rub your eyes, and telling you to use alcohol gel on your hands and to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more when you return home. This is very important.
We are now advising people wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where social distancing is difficult, such as shops, trains and buses to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
You may want to consider wearing a mask if you are out and about, particularly in places where social distancing is difficult.
Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus but not showing symptoms. People with coronavirus symptoms, as well as members of their household, should continue to follow the advice to self-isolate. Remember to be very careful when taking a mask off, so wash your hands carefully first.
There are also currently rules in place about the number of people we can meet from another household, and when you do, it’s again important to remain at least 2 metres apart. This is to limit the spread of the virus from one household to another. We are advised to meet outside, because it’s easier to stay 2 metres apart, there are minimal contact surfaces for us to touch and there is good air flow.
As we relax the rules, social distancing and good handwashing become even more important so we can prevent the further spread of the virus through communities and keep the number of cases and fatalities down too. So remember……
Stay home if you can.
Stay 2 metres away from others if you are out.
Keep washing your hands with soap and water.