Social Distancing vs. Distancing Physical Proximity

  • Dr. Bishwa Kallyan Dash
  • May 5, 2020

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By Dr. Bishwa Kallyan Dash, Assistant Professor of Law; Institute of Law Nirma University, Ahmedabad

Ever have I heard of this word ‘social distancing’ before last couple of months or to be precise; since the outbreak of Coronavirus- COVID19. Since the day this virus was found and started taking over the health of humanity at large; all over the world started looking towards to find a preemptive solution to deal and fight against the on-spread of this deadly disease. Until, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this disease as a Pandemic, most of the nation states across the globe did not even gave a heed to the gravity that this disease might touch upon. As this disease do not have any feasible cure scientifically proven at this moment; the states across the globe affected or otherwise with this virus started to twist every table turned to find a preventive measure. Out of many measures one options was zeroed on which was termed as “social distancing”. According to the states which took it as an enforceable measure among the citizen was a practice to bring in a change in the behaviour that can possibly stop the spread the infection. As this infection’s basic platform was the droplet virus which when comes in contact through physical proximity infects the person who comes in contact with the infected one. This practice often include curtailing social contact, work, schools, access to leisure areas among the seemingly healthy individuals with a view to delay the transmission and reducing thereby the possibilities of an outbreak. It can be well said here that; the practice seeks to curtail the chain that passes the virus transmitting one person to the other while coming in close physical proximity. 

With regards to deal with this situation, the WHO came with advisories which indicated the practice of social distancing as the only feasible thing to be done by the countries to put a check on the spreading of this infection. However, they use the word ‘social distancing’ wrongly by not understanding the true nature and spirit of the practice. A droplet virus (which COVID19 is) is nothing but, when infectious aerosols are generated and they come into contact and mix with exhaled air that may carry infectious agents from patients\' respiratory tracts. Several medical procedures generate aerosols, and some of these procedures may be associated with an increased risk of pathogen transmission. This increases the risk of spreading of the virus from one infected person to one healthy person. Hence, the physical contact of the infectious person must be established with that of a healthy person is necessary for further spread. 

On the other hand, the word ‘physical proximity’ which has been derived from the latin word “proximus” means that; something that is close or near to your body. When the said meaning here is approximated with the clinical process of spreading of this droplet virus COVID19 is concerned, the most appropriate word that could have possibly be used is “Distancing Physical Proximity” than social distancing. As, the society today is very well connected through various medium irrespective of the time, place etc.. The society is not distance from its true sense, while the need of this hour is ‘physical distancing’ which would curb this deadly menace of mankind than social distancing. Social connectivity through virtual means rather is holding the morale of people to be at home and deal with all odds which the states are expecting  the people to go through at this moment. Hence, an appropriate word would have exerted a huge impact on the mindset of many in the fight against COVID19.