What is the Difference Between Quarantine and Social-isolation

And what about social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic?

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Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash


While both quarantine and social-isolation serve the same purpose, they’re different. Depending on your health condition, you might end up in one or the other.

The recent outbreak has also introduced the term social distancing. It translates to keeping and maintaining physical distance from others.

Unfortunately, it became clear that the worst is yet to come.

If you missed this monster article by Tomas Pueyo about the COVID pandemic, read it now.

What exactly are quarantine and social-isolation, and how will it affect your life this year?


Quarantine is a policy made for public protection. The goal is to prevent rapid spread of the viral disease by limiting the movement in affected areas.

During quarantine, it doesn’t matter if you’re healthy or not, you should stay indoors.

The practice originated during the Middle Ages. And It has been sporadically implemented throughout centuries. The idea didn’t really live up to expectations until the late 19th century.

“Continued outbreaks of yellow fever finally prompted Congress to pass federal quarantine legislation in 1878. [1]”

The most notable quarantines in the US history were the Yellow Fever Quarantine in 1799; Cholera Outbreak Quarantine in 1982; WWI prostitute quarantine and Portland Spanish Flue quarantine.

The leading body in charge of public health quarantines in the US is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The headquarters of CDC is in Atlanta.

Over time, the US decreased the level of precaution. CDC was a 55 station operation in 1947, with more than 500 staff members. This was reduced to only seven offices in 1995.

Now, everyone is talking about health quarantines again.

What to expect if my city goes under lockdown?

During quarantine, you can expect cancelation of public events, social gatherings, public transport, and closed borders. This means you won’t be able to visit movies or hit the gym outside your home.

The upside is that the food and basic necessities probably won’t be problematic during quarantines. The US government and food supply chains can successfully provide shops with fresh groceries and basic necessities. You don’t have to panic-buy toilet paper. Developed countries have supplies to last years.

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Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash


If you’re traveling to or from COVID-19 affected areas, the authorities might order you to self-isolate.

Social isolation or self-isolation in the medical sense of the word means “the complete separation from others of a person suffering from contagious or infectious disease.[2]”

Isolation might have you secluded from your family and friends. Unlike quarantine, where you’re allowed to share a living space with others.

You might face social-isolation while being perfectly healthy.

As of right now, most European countries urge all travelers to self-isolate for at least two weeks.

In Australia, the police are mobilized to help enforce self-isolation.

Individuals are facing isolation due to the asymptotic nature of the novel coronavirus. It’s possible to be highly infectious without being aware for up to 14 days.

During the SARS outbreak in 2003, infected were in isolation until they were no longer infectious. SARS outbreak was different because infected manifested observable symptoms. The health providers could act accordingly and place them in isolation. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the novel coronavirus.

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Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

Who is enforcing quarantines and isolation

In most cases, people participate voluntarily. They’re motivated by the health risk factor.

Self-isolation requires public’s trust and the willingness to participate.

In severe cases, health officials have the power to compel isolation and quarantine.

This is followed by fines and the risk of prosecution.

Countries like Bahrain have issued jail warnings over breaching self-isolation measures.

Officers in Spain have arrested a woman for flaunting the state of emergency.

Australia has issued penalties for public gatherings. Fines are ranging from $11,000 for individuals to $55,000 for corporate offenses.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

What to do during the following months

I’ve lived through both quarantine and self-isolation. One in China during early days of the pandemic and the second one in Europe during reruns.

Your life will change. People will suffer. That’s the truth.

But please, don’t panic. Instead, you can educate yourself and raise awareness.

Remember, this is not happening only to you. We’re all in this together.

During my month-long quarantine in Xi’an China, there was no toilet paper shortage. And I wasn’t hungry. Those are good news.

With that said, there are psychological challenges of forced confinement. It’s hard to realize that you won’t be able to go outside indefinitely.

Focus on what’s in front of you and try to get the most out of time.

I’ve compiled a list of stuff to do during isolation.

The Takeaway

In the following days, you’ll hear a lot about isolation and qurantine. It helps if you understand which is which.

Quarantine — public policy to sustain the spread of viral disease.

Social-isolation — self-confinment to protect others.

You should limit your in-person social activities during the following months.

It’s essential to protect yourself and others from spreading the novel coronavirus.

Unfortunately, this will stop many from going to work. Restaurants, bars, and shops will close. And the economic consequence is yet to be determined.

Follow the latest safety guidelines and stay safe.

Written by

Curious Fellow | Get lifetime free access to soon-the-be-paid Koraza’s Letter: https://koraza.substack.com | Check https://unsplash.com/@tonikoraza for Covers.

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