Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Quarantine and Social Distancing

What is Quarantine and Social Distancing?

Both these terms describe approaches for limiting the spread of disease during epidemics and pandemics. Both the approaches have become very popular in today’s coronavirus culture. Though both the terms boil down to limiting contact with other people—just on different scales, yet both the terms show some differences.

What is Quarantine?

It is used for people who may be exposed to the infectious virus but may not be sick. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those who are in self-quarantine thinking they could be infected monitor and keep a check on their symptoms. People in quarantine should keep their doctor updated and well-informed about their symptoms and immediately approach the COVID-19 health center if the symptoms worsen. People in quarantine also need to take complete rest and do proper handwashing, use sanitizers and stay hydrated. They should also maintain proper hygiene, keep the house clean and clean the household surfaces regularly and avoid sharing their personal items with other people in their household. If you feel sick and unwell, it is important to confine yourself in one room and preferably sleep alone so that other people in the house are at minimum risk of catching the infection. One more thing is important: whenever you step out of the house, CDC recommends to wear a mask and this becomes even more important if you are symptomatic 

and are sick with coronavirus and are around people outside their quarantine facility should safeguard others by wearing a face mask.

What is Social Distancing?

Used when in public or at work and not sick. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation, social distancing focusses on staying away and maintaining distance of approximately 6 feet (by CDC) all the time when in public. It also involves staying away from the congregate settings and avoiding mass gatherings. Congregate settings include crowded public spaces like malls, crowded super markets, cinema halls, stadiums and marriages where more than 100 people gather. 

Difference between Quarantine and Social Distancing



Quarantine means to stay inside (preferably home) for at least fourteen days if anyone has definitely or most likely been exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Social Distancing

Social distancing means maintaining distance socially and staying within your bubble and away from people who live outside your home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation


The CDC recommends absolutely not going out because you have been diagnosed, or you are showing symptoms or suspect you could be infected with COVID-19. 

Social Distancing

The CDC recommends that anyone in an area that is experiencing community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) should practice social distancing. 

Importance (Why?)


To minimize face-to-face contact and reduce the spread of disease

Social Distancing

The person could be infected with the virus even if he is asymptomatic (may not show any symptoms. He or she needs to stay away from others until they get tested for positive or negative result.

How are these done?


  • Separate living quarters if possible
  • Keep 6 feet away from other people
  • Have food and other necessities that are delivered at the quarantine facility

Social Distancing

  • Encourage people to stay at home
  • Maintain 6 feet of space from others
  • Work to minimize close contact between people

What specifically one who is in quarantine or following social distancing need not do?


Not sharing items like towels and utensils

Social Distancing

Avoiding the store at busy times; having items delivered or ordering take out

What specifically one who is in quarantine or following social distancing needs to do?


  • Not having visitors
  • Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently

Social Distancing

  • Using hand sanitizer immediately after being in contact with people outside in public, washing hands with soap and water after handshake or touching items others have touched
  • Talking and interacting with friends, family and other loved ones by using social media apps on electronic devices instead of meeting them in person


The points of difference between Quarantine and Social Distancing have been summarized as below:

Quarantine Vs.  Social Distancing

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References :

[0]Day, T., Park, A., Madras, N., Gumel, A., & Wu, J. (2006). When is quarantine a useful control strategy for emerging infectious diseases? American Journal of Epidemiology, 163(5), 479-485.

[1]Giallonardo, V., Sampogna, G., Del Vecchio, V., Luciano, M., Albert, U., Carmassi, C., ... & Pompili, M. (2020). The impact of quarantine and physical distancing following COVID-19 on mental health: Study protocol of a multicentric italian population trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11.

[2]Nussbaumer‐Streit, B., Mayr, V., Dobrescu, A. I., Chapman, A., Persad, E., Klerings, I., ... & Gartlehner, G. (2020). Quarantine alone or in combination with other public health measures to control COVID‐19: a rapid review. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).

[3]Mohler, G., Bertozzi, A. L., Carter, J., Short, M. B., Sledge, D., Tita, G. E., ... & Brantingham, P. J. (2020). Impact of social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic on crime in Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Journal of Criminal Justice, 101692.

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flatten_the_curve_by_social_distancing.jpg

[5]Image credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2020/04/10/14/09/quarantine-5025954_1280.png

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