Physical (Social) Distancing vs. Quarantine (Self-Isolate) vs. Isolate

Physical (Social) Distancing vs. Quarantine (Self-Isolate) vs. Isolate

Photo by Anna Shvets

There are differences between physical (social) distancing, quarantine (self-isolate), and isolate.1 Please refer and adhere to your jurisdiction’s protocols. If you have recently traveled, you may refer to the latest COVID-19 update on the International Air Transport Association website,2 which includes a list of countries and their restriction measures. 

In order to make data available for Canadians, people living in the United States, and the rest of the world, we included information from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. See below for information about physical (social) distancing, quarantine (self-isolate), and isolation from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. 

Table of Contents

  1. Physical (social) distancing
  2. Quarantine (Self-Isolation)
  3. Isolation
  4. References
1. Physical (social) distancing
Read more: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/covid-19-physical-distancing.html
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

Physical (social) distancing is something we all must do to slow the spread of COVID-19. Keep 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and other people.

Read more here:

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Physical distancing: How to slow the spread of COVID-19 https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/social-distancing.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

To practice physical (social) distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm’s length) from others in indoor spaces if you are not fully vaccinated. Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from sick household members as well, regardless of vaccination status.  

Read more here: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social Distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html
World Health Organization (WHO)

It is recommended to maintain at least a 1 metre physical distance from others. This suggestion applies to all individuals, even those that may not have been exposed to COVID-19.

Students and staff are recommended to follow physical distancing guidelines in schools and classrooms 

Read more here: 

  1. World Health Organization. Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  2. World Health Organization. Considerations for quarantine of individuals in the context of containment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/considerations-for-quarantine-of-individuals-in-the-context-of-containment-for-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)
2. Quarantine (Self-Isolate)
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

Quarantine if you have had no symptoms of COVID-19 but have been exposed to an individual who has been diagnosed or exposed with COVID-19. There are different quarantine requirements if you have or have not been vaccinated. Follow guidelines for quarantine from your local public health authority. 

If you are testing for COVID and are waiting for results, you must quarantine until you have received a negative test result or your local public health authority tells you you do not need to quarantine. 

If the person presents with no symptoms and a negative COVID-19 test, quarantine can be shortened. When testing is not possible, quarantine may be shortened to 10 days if no symptoms are present.

Read more here:

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. How to quarantine (self-isolate) at home when you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-how-to-self-isolate-home-exposed-no-symptoms.html
  2. World Health Organization. Contact tracing and quarantine in the context of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant: interim guidance. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-Contact-tracing-and-quarantine-Omicron-variant-2022.1
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

For people unvaccinated or more than 6 months out of their mRNA second dose and not yet boosted CDC reccomends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict masking for 5 days. For individuals who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine following an exposure. 

Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. If you are not fully vaccinated, you should stay home for at least 5 days after your last close contact with a person who has COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated or if you tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days, you do not need to quarantine.

What is a close contact? 

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes.
  • You provided at-home care to someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (touched, hugged, or kissed them).
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils.
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

When to start and end quarantine depends on different factors and situations (See the link below to determine when you can end quarantine and be around others)

Read more here: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quarantine if you might be sick. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
  2. CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html 
World Health Organization (WHO)

Quarantine refers to separation of individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, even if the individuals themselves are not experiencing symptoms. 

It involves restriction of activities and self-monitoring of symptoms with the goal of preventing possible infection of others. It is recommended to quarantine for at least 14 days after exposure, during which the individual should physically distance from others, including family members. 

Read more here: 

  1. World Health Organization. Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  2. World Health Organization. Considerations for quarantine of individuals in the context of containment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/considerations-for-quarantine-of-individuals-in-the-context-of-containment-for-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)
3. Isolation
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

You may be advised by your local public health authority to go directly home and stay home until you are no longer at risk of spreading the virus.

You may need to isolate if you have:

  • Been diagnosed with COVID-19 or you are waiting for your laboratory test results for COVID-19.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19, even if symptoms are mild and have:  
    • Been in contact with a suspected, probable, or confirmed case of COVID-19. 
    • Been advised by your public health authority (e.g. if you are returning from travel).

Read more here: 

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. How to isolate at home when you may have COVID-19. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home.html 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Isolation separates people infected with COVID-19 (asymptomatic and symptomatic)  from people who are not infected. 

People with a positive COVID-19 viral test and those with COVID-19 symptoms (who have not been tested or who are waiting for test results) must isolate for at least 5 days, regardless of their vaccination status.  

When you can be around others depends on different factors and situations. (See the link below to determine when you can end isolation and be around others)

Read more here: 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Isolate if you are sick. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/isolation.html
World Health Organization (WHO)

Isolation is the separation of individuals who are known to be ill with COVID-19 symptoms, with the goal of preventing infection of others. 

The individual is to: 

  • Stay at home
  • Maintain a 1 metre distance from others, including family members
  • Not go to work, school or public places
  • Monitor symptoms

Isolation lasts at least 14 days. If the individual develops difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. 

Read more here: 

  1. World Health Organization. Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
  2. World Health Organization. Considerations for quarantine of individuals in the context of containment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/considerations-for-quarantine-of-individuals-in-the-context-of-containment-for-coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)
4. References
  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html 
  2. IATA. Travel news powered by IATA Timatic. https://www.iatatravelcentre.com/international-travel-document-news/1580226297.htm

Disclaimer: The information regarding COVID-19 is changing constantly as more data become available. The information provided in this website is not meant to replace diabetes healthcare team or public health agencies recommendations, and is intended for information purposes only. Please check with your healthcare providers for any deviations from your care plans.


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