Social distancing etiquette: Dos and don’ts when braving the outdoors 

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysian government’s decision to impose the Movement Control Order (MCO) is definitely a step forwards in encouraging social distancing. 

No, social distancing is not just a fancy way of saying “stay away” from other people. 

It means keeping a significant physical distance (at least 1-2 meters) away from others and avoiding overcrowded public spaces like supermarkets or social gatherings, where you’ll be in close physical contact with other people. This is of course, a strategy aimed at keeping people away from those who have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, as much as possible. Governments have even imposed an extended period of staying home for most of the public. 

Although there have been many news reports on what social distancing is, there’s not so much on what is deemed to be socially acceptable behavior for when you DO need to step outside. Pro tip: Read on and find out! 


To mask or not to mask?

From the start, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the answer was ‘no’. Masks should be worn by those who are sick, and limited to medical workers. Today, both the US and Singapore have switched to advising citizens to wear masks when they leave their homes. The WHO has also made a U-turn, releasing a statement that claims they can certainly see circumstances on which the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease. Prompting the change was growing evidence that some people infected with the coronavirus do not show symptoms and are able to make others sick. 

So the answer’s yes, do wear a mask. It will minimize risks greatly. 


Don’t touch your face! And wear gloves.

With all the evidence by numerous countries proving that indeed, there are some who have been infected that do not show symptoms, we have all the more reason to have a heightened awareness of everything we come in contact with. If you are one of those who have masks on but not gloves, do not, by any means, touch something, and then touch your face. In fact, there are even tutorials on how to delicately remove your gloves should you be wearing any. Dispose of them after each use, too. 


What you touch is not what comes to mind

More often than not, when we think about everything that we touch, we skip those that have become so routine that we forget that it’s also unsanitary. This is why we need that little pocket hand sanitizer in a spray form, if possible – and be extra careful with high touch areas such as doorknobs, lift buttons, railings, escalator handles, shopping trolleys, ATM keyboards, petrol nozzles, and even the bits and bobs inside your car, including the steering wheel and knobs and gears. It’s okay to be a little bit paranoid, nowadays. 


Take a number, stand in line, be respectful. 

From the moment you step out of your home, it’s good practice to just take a deep breath and adapt a mindset that this is no ordinary trip to the local Pak Cik Sayur mart. It will help everyone if we can be just a little bit more respectful of businesses who have chosen to adopt a new standard operating procedure, be it to have a queue outside their premises, or to have customers’ temperatures checked and hands sanitized, or to even request that you place an order from within your designated markers on the floor. These are all steps that have been highly encouraged by the council or the local governments to help ease the struggles of our daily life from now on. Be mindful and grateful for the businesses who care enough to continue operating to fulfill your needs. There’s no need to be rude, just fall in line. 


No one’s a superhero. 

Don’t come to the store if you feel sick. Stay home if you’re experiencing symptoms. Period. Get a delivery service, a family member, a neighbor or a friend to do the grocery run for you, and have them leave it outside your door.


Finally, leave the bad outside

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.

Create a cleaning zone at your doorstep before bringing in goods. Red zone and green zone – red for dirty, green for clean. Disinfect or safely dispose of anything that may have been contaminated such as packaging.


Social distancing has a huge impact on improving the conditions of the pandemic, but every little decision to stay home counts. Let’s do our part to spread the importance of staying home, while maintaining our social etiquettes if we do decide to venture outside.



Leave a Reply