What our experts are saying about social distancing

Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Student with his laptop sitting alone on the steps of Tabaret Hall

Perhaps you’ve seen the meme. A row of matches catching fire one after another, until one is removed. It stops the fire from spreading to the rest of the matches next in line.

This image best illustrates social distancing, one of the best public health measures available to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Sure, you might feel great, but you could be carrying this virus for up to 14 days without showing symptoms.

Social distancing reduces the number of contacts within a herd. You might be young and healthy with a robust immune system, but we’re in a game of numbers and percentages now. The more it spreads, the more people will require the very limited number of ICU beds.

Think of it as doing all you can to protect your grandma and grandpa, your mom and dad, and those with underlying health conditions.

But don’t take our word for it. We asked some of our most highly respected experts to explain why social distancing is so important:


Colleen Flood
Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Ottawa

“We do not have — relative to other countries — very high numbers of physicians and nurses per capita, and we do not have very high numbers of hospital beds per capita. We feel that pinch in the normal course of events with concerns about wait times. But when we have something like COVID-19, then the rubber really hits the road — not to mention if, God forbid, we should be hit with something else at the same time. So, this is about whether or not we have sufficient surge capacity. Forward planning can help with this.”

Source: Ethics, the law and a public health emergency, CBC Radio - The Sunday Edition


Marc-André Langlois
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology

“The transmission of this virus happens very quickly. For every new infection, the infected person can go on to infect two-to-three new people. So, what we're trying to do by calling for social distancing is to reduce the rate of transmission so that we don't overwhelm medical services, but also, another advantage is that eventually, you'll weed out all of those infected who are still in the incubation period, meaning, who may not be demonstrating any symptoms.”

Source: Virologist on latest COVID-19 developments, CBC Listen - Ottawa morning with Robyn Bresnahan


Louise Lemyre
Professor at the School of Epidemiology and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine

“In a university setting, one of the challenges is that many people, especially the younger generations, tend to think they are not at risk and that some measures are not relevant for them. We need to emphasize the collective benefits to reduce and shorten the burden of the crisis. This requires properly explaining the rationale behind each measure and helping to find ways to achieve our priorities.”

Read: Two uOttawa researchers advise the Chief Science Advisor of Canada about COVID-19

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