Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease which causes respiratory illness. Typical symptoms include cough, high temperature, and shortness of breath. It is considered absolutely essential to avoid the transmission of the virus, which can be done through person to person contact, more specifically, the virus can be transmitted through cough/sneeze droplets. Infected countries in the world, including Germany, are practising social distancing as a means of preventing people from getting infected. See below for a social distancing guide for students in Germany.
What Does Social Distancing Mean?
Social distancing is a safety measure against coronavirus (COVID-19), which requires people to reduce social interaction and this way prevent the possible transmission of the disease. Basically, social distancing encourages people to stay at home as much as possible and avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces. In the midst of different terms being used during this time, you as a student might be confused about what social distancing means and which are the guidelines you should follow. We will elaborate on this just below.
Keep in mind that everyone (no matter whether they have the virus or not) are advised to practice social distancing. In case you have tested positive for the virus, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus you will be in ‘self-isolation’ or ‘quarantine’. ‘Self-isolation’ and ‘quarantine’ are different terms from ‘social distancing’ and therefore are more strict since they deal with people who have or might have the virus.
Social Distancing Frequently Asked Questions
Am I Allowed to Go to the Grocery Store?
Yes. You are allowed to go to the grocery store. However, you should do so while undertaking the necessary safety measures. Make sure you do not take many trips to the grocery store, go once and do your shopping for the rest of the day, or a few days. You can choose a time when there aren’t many people, so this way you avoid crowds of people or lines. Make sure you wash your hands after you return from the store as well as before you start eating or preparing food.
Can I Use Public Transport?
Using public transport is not advised since it goes against “avoiding isolated places with a lot of people”. However, if you must use public transport, make sure you clean your seat and poles before touching them. As soon as you arrive at your destination, you must wash your hands thoroughly.
Can I Get Food Delivered to Me?
Yes, you may also order food which can be delivered. Keep in mind that you are advised to disinfect the containers before starting to eat, as well as clean your hands.
Can I Take a Walk or Go Elsewhere?
Taking a walk is possible since you’re also allowed to go to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. However, the situation calls for you to stay inside as much as possible. Public gatherings of more than two people (excluding families and those who live together) are banned. The Federal Government has declared that gatherings of any kind, including bars, theatres, or cinemas, are to be halted for the time being. This is to ensure that the virus does not spread and the number of infected people does not increase.
You can go out only if you have to buy essentials like groceries, have to go to work, visit the doctor’s office for appointments that cannot be changed, or urgent family reasons.
Can I Exercise Outside?
Going to the gym is not advised taking into consideration the current situation. However, you may choose to exercise at home or outside (while keeping a safe distance from other people). You have to stay at least 2-metres away from someone else.
Can I Go to the Doctor?
Going to the doctor is allowed but it is wise to cancel all appointments that are not critical. In case you experience coronavirus symptoms, you can call your doctor, the local health department, or call 116 117. You can find your local health authority by postcode if you use this search tool by Robert Koch-Institut.
Can I Visit Family Members/Friends?
You should not have contact with anyone you do not live with, especially the elderly or those who have underlying health issues since these people are more vulnerable to the virus. It is crucial to keep the virus from spreading and protect everyone and particularly those who are more vulnerable. You can keep contact using remote technology like phones, internet, or social media.
What If I Have to Go to Work?
If you are working part-time while being a student and you cannot work remotely, then you can go to work but you must apply the correct safety measures. Use gloves and a face mask when possible and make sure to wash your hands frequently. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
Will My Health Insurance Cover My Expenses While Social Distancing?
No, your health insurance plan as an international student, will not cover your expenses while social distancing. This is because social distancing falls into the category of precautionary measures against the virus. If you do find out that you have coronavirus during this time, health insurance will cover your further medical expenses. The private health insurance company, Dr-Walter, offers coverage of up to 90 days for medical costs, in case you’re forced to spend more time abroad as a result of COVID-19.
Social Distancing Advice
Keep in Mind the Safety Measures
The coronavirus (COVID-19) safety measures are as follows:
- Wash your hands regularly, at least 20-30 seconds with soap.
- Cough or sneeze while covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow. Throw the tissue afterwards.
- Avoid large crowds of people or closed spaces with a lot of people.
- Avoid gestures like shaking hands or hugging.
- Avoid using public transport, if you can.
- Avoid visiting public institutions, if you can.
- Avoid shopping when there are a lot of people. Choose a less-busy time of the day.
- Stay away from people who show flu-like symptoms (or coronavirus symptoms).
- Keep a distance of at least 2 meters away from other people.
- In case you show symptoms, call your doctor before going to the hospital or pharmacy.
You can get more coronavirus information for international students here.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
It is completely understandable to find social distancing boring, or see that your mood and feelings are low during this time. You should keep in mind that taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. Make sure you are spending time doing things you enjoy indoors.
Some of the things you can do to take care of your mental wellbeing include:
- Indulge in your indoors hobbies like reading, watching movies, tv-series, and cooking or baking.
- Make sure you stay hydrated, avoid smoking, and try to eat as healthy as possible.
- Spend time in the garden under the sunshine, open the windows for fresh air, and exercise at home.
Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do while social distancing. It is important to be something you enjoy.
In Case You Show Symptoms:
If you show symptoms while you are social distancing, call your doctor, the local health department, or 116 117. Visiting the doctor before calling beforehand is not advised since you risk infecting other people in your visit to the doctor’s office. Therefore, contact the doctor first and they will advise you on what to do.
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