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Residential Life

Social distancing FAQs

By Adrian 28 Jul 2020

You can find all our COVID-19 content at campuslife.london.ac.uk/tags/COVID-19.

There is a quick summary at campuslife.london.ac.uk/covid19-guidance-start-here_122007.

We also recommend that you stay up to date with guidance from the UK government and the NHS.


What is social distancing?

Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections. These often include curtailing social contact, work and schooling among seemingly healthy individuals, with a view to delaying transmission and reducing the size of an outbreak.

Read more at New Scientist.

What is the law about social distancing in England?

The government has also published an FAQs page to help people understand what activities are / are not allowed under current social distancing regulations. There is also further advice available about how to stay safe outside your home and meeting people from outside your household.

It's complicated! Is there a simpler way to understand all the rules?



Social distancing requirements are still in force in England.

The government still recommends that you keep two metres away from people as a precaution or one metre when you can mitigate the risk by taking other precautions.

You must wear a face covering on public transport and in shops, and you are advised to wear a face covering in all busy, enclosed spaces where it may be difficult to maintain 2 metres' distance from other people.

The law now allows people to form a "support bubble" of two households - one of which must be a single-adult houselhold - who may meet with one another indoors and do not need to keep two metres' distance. The rules as they stand do not allow guests to visit you inside the intercollegiate halls; if you need help to understand why this is, please see the Support bubbles heading at the bottom of this page.

It is also within the law for two households of any size to meet indoors, provided everyone present maintains a distance of at least two metres from people in the other household. Again, the definition of a "household" and the precise wording of the legislation do not allow guests to visit you inside the intercollegiate halls, because so many of our residents share social, food preparation, and/or bathroom facilities with many other students. But you can legally visit your friends in their private homes.

Social distancing measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating.

By following this guidance, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.



Why is social distancing important?

  1. Social distancing measures can help reduce and slow the spread of coronavirus.
  2. For most people, COVID-19 is a mild illness; but for some people in high-risk groups (the elderly, and anyone with an underlying health condition like heart disease or lung disease), there can be up to a 15% chance of dying from the infection. We do have at-risk students and staff in the intercollegiate halls.
  3. Not everyone who has coronavirus has symptoms, but they are still infectious and can pass on the disease to other people. Young people account for most of these "silent but still infectious" cases. So you might feel completely well, but still be capable of transmitting coronavirus to a high-risk person if you are out in public places; and that could kill them.
  4. About 20% of people with COVID-19 require admission to hospital. If a large number of people are infected at the same time, the NHS won't be able to cope - and this could lead to avoidable deaths, both from COVID-19 and other conditions.
  5. In halls, if one person develops coronavirus, many others will also be required to contact quarantine as a precaution. By adhering to social distancing guidance, we can reduce the incidence of coronavirus in our halls - and thereby reduce the inconvenience of many people having to quarantine many times over the course of the year.
  6. If the incidence of coronavirus increases in the community, there could be more local or even national lockdowns - causing us all a lot more inconvenience and stress than if we just stick to the social distancing guidance now.

All of this means that YOU have the power to save lives in our community by following the government's advice to reduce contact with other people.

What else can I do to protect myself and prevent the spread of coronavirus?

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 2 metres distance between yourself and anyone who is not in your household. If you are too close, you can breathe in exhaled droplets from other people, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. See our article about self-isolation for more information about this.

Looking after your mental wellbeing

(Also see our article, Coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak.)

Understandably, you may find that social distancing can be boring or frustrating. You may find your mood and feelings are affected and you may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being outside with other people.

At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time such as:

  • look for ideas of exercises you can do at home on the NHS website
  • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to the radio or watching TV programmes
  • try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
  • keep your windows open to let in fresh air, get some natural sunlight if you can, or get outside into the garden

You can also go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.

What steps can you take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks during this time. Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling.

Remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you can use an NHS recommended helpline.

Support bubbles

Government instructions about support bubbles state:

  • If you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children – in other words, if there is only one adult in your home – you can expand your support network so that it includes one other household of any size.You should only form a support bubble with one other household, should not change or add to your support bubble once formed, and must only form a support bubble with another household if you or they are in a single adult household.
  • Support bubbles must be exclusive – you should not change who is in your bubble or have close contact with anyone else you do not live with.
  • The risk of infection rises with the number of people in a bubble and the number of interactions you have with people you do not live with, so it’s important to take measures to try and protect against this. This means that support bubbles must be exclusive – you should only form a bubble with one household and they should only be in a bubble with you.
  • If you or someone in your support bubble is showing coronavirus symptoms, or otherwise self-isolating, everyone in your support bubble should stay home. If you or a member of your support bubble is contacted as part of the test and trace programme, the individual contacted should stay at home. If the individual becomes symptomatic, everyone in the support bubble should then isolate.

These instructions outline the law in England. In our interpretation, the law does not allow guests to visit residents in the intercollegiate halls for the following reasons:

  1. A single adult household would be one person, living alone and not sharing any food preparation, dining, toilet, bathroom facilities, or living spaces with anyone else. There are very few flats within the intercollegiate halls meeting these requirements: most of our residents share at least some facilities with other residents.
  2. We have a duty to safeguard the health and safety of all our residents, and to continue providing reassurance that we are a safe home and a safe place of work. We would therefore need to verify that both households involved in a possible support bubble were members of that one support bubble to the exclusion of others, and that the "non-resident" half of a possible support bubble is a single adult household. We do not have any means of verifying these facts.
Adrian profile picture

Adrian is a medical doctor, the University of London Student Health & Wellbeing Manager, and the Warden of Connaught Hall. He is passionate about advancing equality, diversity, and inclusion. Adrian's interests include fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and insight meditation, medical education, social psychology, and human factors / crisis resource management.
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