Quarantine, Social Distancing, and Isolation. What’s The Difference?

"Just stay at home!"

This line has been repeated time and time again by our Prime Minister and even the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, regarding the movement control order set out by the Malaysian government, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some have referred to this order as self-quarantine, some think it’s leaning more towards social distancing, or even isolation. So do these terms mean the same thing and can they be used interchangeably?

Nope. All three have their own separate definitions and don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

Here are the differences between social distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation!


quarantine, social distancing, and isolation. what’s the difference?Photo via Getty Images

Social-distancing is usually done by people under their own prerogative, basically taking extra precautions when interacting with other people.

As the term is pretty self-explanatory, it also means distancing yourself from the usual social interactions, like opting for a wave instead of a handshake and avoiding crowded places.

Working from home, postponing or cancelling large events or gatherings are some of the examples of social-distancing.


quarantine, social distancing, and isolation. what’s the difference?Photo via insider.com

This term tends to freak people out a bit, as it carries a stigma that the person self-quarantining has been infected.

However, self-quarantine is often a cautionary step suggested by medical practitioners to someone who has been exposed to a person that is infected. Exposure could mean either physical contact or being at the same event or large gathering with them.

Someone who self-quarantines has to stay at home for at least 14 days and during that period should self-monitor for any symptoms or anything that may feel out of the ordinary.


quarantine, social distancing, and isolation. what’s the difference?Photo via Sarkardaily.com

Isolation is the most extreme stage of separation. This is usually done when a person has been given a positive diagnosis.

If someone were to be tested positive for the coronavirus, they need to be isolated from the outside world and can only interact with medical professionals. Contact with anyone else is strictly not allowed.

Someone who has to be isolated typically will be placed in a hospital or a medical center until they have been cleared of the virus.

So no, self-quarantine, social distancing and isolation are not the same things. Here’s hoping that all of us will only be required to practice social distancing and nothing more severe.

Stay safe, stay home!

By: Amy Sharifuddin