How some countries are using social distancing to limit coronavirus spread

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) greeted Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia by replacing the traditional handshake with an Indian-style namaste, pressing his palms together and bowing slightly, at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris, on March 11, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Countries around the world are imposing more and stricter social-distancing measures as governments seek to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus a day after the World Health Organisation labelled the outbreak as a pandemic.

The measures are meant to reduce close contact between people so as to avoid further community transmission of the virus.

Public experts have said social distancing - that often involve closing schools and cancelling big gatherings - is one of the most effective ways of containing an outbreak. Proven results include the 1918 influenza pandemic.

The coronavirus has so far infected more than 134,000 people worldwide and killed almost 5,000, since it originated in China's Wuhan in late December.

Among the most badly hit countries outside China, Italy has recorded more than 15,000 confirmed cases and over 1,000 deaths. Iran has over 10,000 cases and 429 deaths, while South Korea has almost 8,000 cases and 67 deaths.

Here is how some of the worst-hit nations are applying social distancing measures in their efforts to stop the disease from spreading further.


  • Nation of 60 million placed under lockdown
  • Travel allowed only with police permission
  • All big gatherings halted until at least April 3, including sporting events
  • All schools, museums, theatres and public facilities shut
  • All stores shut except for grocery shops and pharmacies
  • Visits to jails and hospitals barred or limited

United States

  • All travel to and from Europe, except Britain and Ireland, restricted for 30 days from March 13
  • Citizens urged to avoid all travel, returnees from Europe to be self-quarantined
  • Many universities and some schools closed, switching to remote learning; students asked to leave campus accommodations
  • Big public gatherings and sporting events like NBA suspended
  • Hollywood movie premieres postponed
  • Disney theme parks shut
  • Many employees, especially big tech firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon, told to work from home
  • Elderly urged to stay home and avoid large crowds

South Korea

  • Those at risk or mildly symptomatic placed under self-quarantine
  • People advised to stay home and refrain from physical contact
  • Schools and universities closed
  • Churches closed, masses held online
  • Public events cancelled, including football matches
  • Many employees told to work from home
  • Drive-through virus-testing stations set up to limit contact


  • People in Hubei's Wuhan and other cities placed under lockdown
  • Those unwell advised to self-quarantine
  • All public gatherings and sporting events cancelled, theatres closed
  • Schools and companies shut, switching to e-learning and telecommuting
  • Security screenings at subway stations, based on a colour-coding app
  • Customers in shops and queues told to maintain at least a one-metre distance from one another


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