In the battle against the highly infectious COVID-19 virus, social distancing is extremely important to help curb the spread of this disease across the country.


The term “social distancing” basically means one needs to keep their distance from others. This includes avoiding public spaces such as malls, the work place, and of course, social events as well as recreational areas where others usually gather.


One needs to avoid handshakes, hugs and other forms of direct contact as well as keeping a distance of at least two metres from others.


This practice is particularly important while we are in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic where the virus spreads from person to person via an infected person passing droplets through sneezing or coughing or by coming into contact with surfaces where the virus has been transmitted.


There are various examples of social distancing that worked in curbing the rate of disease transmission, with one of the earliest and most notable examples going as far back as 350 years ago during the Black Plague.


The plague ended up killing around 100,000 people in total. However, there is a little town in the United Kingdom that was praised for its commitment to social distancing and quarantine and has been credited with keeping the disease from spreading to larger surrounding towns.


According to an article from Historic UK by Victoria Masson, written in 2016, the small British village isolated itself from the rest of the country for 14 months and through this, was able to contain the spread of the disease.


A boundary wall was set up around the outskirts of the village and it was guarded by watchmen to ensure no one ventured outside the town’s limits. Watchmen also ensured people stayed in their own homes whilst food and water was left by some   neighboring villages near the outskirts of the town when the villagers ran short of supplies.


One only has to look up the village online to see how effective they were in containing the spread of the disease without the use of modern medicine and protective equipment and the village’s decision has been said to have made a significant impact on the medical understanding of social distancing and quarantining.


The implementation of social distancing and quarantine in South Africa is essential in flattening the curve, which is indicated by the number of infectious people dropping.


We can learn many lessons from past pandemics and how they were handled. While many people may be frustrated by the current lockdown, it is vital in keeping South Africans, especially our more vulnerable communities, safe.


Staying indoors, significantly limiting your contact with other people and avoiding public spaces will leave many South Africans feeling helpless, restless and even angry. However, if we decide to ignore the calls of government for isolation, social distancing and quarantine, we will see the spread of the virus and the full devastation it wreaks in our country.


By Chelsea Pieterse
Freelance Journalist