Self-isolation and physical distancing

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing means avoiding close contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  All levels of government and medical experts recommend it as the best approach to social interaction.

When it comes to the workplace, physical distancing includes the following:

  • Avoiding close contact with others, keeping two meters or six feet apart.
  • Reducing contact with others, working from home if possible.
  • Stop handshaking as a greeting.
  • Holding meetings via video conferencing or phone call. Defer large meetings.
  • Holding essential meetings outside in the open air if possible.
  • Taking lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunch room.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly.
  • Consider opening windows.
  • Limiting food handling and sharing of food in the workplace.
  • Practicing good infection prevention and control practices:
    • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Staying home if you are sick.
    • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, then discarding the tissue.
    • Sneezing or coughing into your sleeve or arm if you don’t have a tissue.

In general, according to Toronto Public Health (TPH), physical distancing also means:

  • Avoiding visits and small gatherings. Connect with friends and relatives over the phone or online.
  • Staying home and limiting your trips outdoors, ideally to once a week, and only to get groceries, medicine or other essentials. After going outside, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • For essential trips (i.e. grocery shopping), using tap to pay rather than handling money, avoid long lineups.

According to TPH, physical distancing is not:

  • Having friends over for dinner or coffee.
  • Arranging playdates for your kids.
  • Visiting friends and family in long-term care homes, or hospital.
  • Stopping at a grocery store to stock up after travel, including travel to the United States. Opt for delivery or ask a friend for help.

What is self-isolating?

Self-isolating means staying home and away from other people, even those in your household.

When to self-isolate

Self-isolation is recommended if you have:

  • A lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection, do not require hospitalization, and a medical practitioner has indicated that you can recover at home.
  • Possible symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Muscle aches and tiredness
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Less commonly: sore throat, headache and diarrhea have been reported.
  • Travelled from anywhere outside of Canada, including the United States, within the past 14 days (even if you don’t have any symptoms).

If you have close contact with someone who does not have COVID-19, but who was exposed to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate. You may continue with your regular routines and activities.

How to self-isolate

  • Stay home.
  • Avoid contact with others, even within your own home. Stay in a separate room away from others and use a separate bathroom if possible. Avoid sharing items such as dishes and cutlery.
  • Keep away from seniors and people with compromised immune systems.
  • Disinfect common spaces and shared rooms frequently.
  • Open windows to improve air flow.
  • Do not go to work, school or any public places.
  • Do not use public transportation.


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