'Self Isolating', 'Shielding', 'Social Distancing' - What's the Difference?

It's all a bit confusing really - but what's the difference and why does it matter?

Let's start with the 'what?'

Social Distancing

You're probably familiar with these measures already, after all it's all that's been on the news since being announced earlier this week. These measures introduced by the Government are designed to reduce contact between people to minimise the possibility of spreading the coronavirus.

Everybody must stay at home and only leave for these reasons:

  • to exercise once a day - either alone, or with members of your household

  • shopping for basic necessities, although this should be done as little as possible

  • medical need, or to provide care for a vulnerable person

  • travel to or from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary

If you have to go outside you must stay more than 2m (6ft) apart from others.


You should be self-isolating if you are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms - a high temperature and/or a dry, persistent cough. If you live with someone with these symptoms, you should also be self-isolating.

That means:

  • If you live alone, you must stay at home for seven days from the day symptoms start

  • If you, or someone you live with, develop symptoms, the entire household needs to isolate for 14 days to monitor for signs of Covid-19

  • If someone else does become ill during that period, their seven-day isolation starts that day. For example, it might run from day three to day 10 - when that person's isolation would then end. It would not restart if another member of the household fell ill

  • But anyone who fell ill on day 13 would have to start a separate seven-day isolation from that day (meaning they would spend a total of 20 days at home)


Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising their interactions with others.

If you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable, or have received a letter from NHS England, the Government strongly advises following Shielding measures. 

If you are shielding you should be staying at home at all times for the next 12 weeks. You should not be going to the shops or into public places. You should also avoid face-to-face contact with others.

CRAB Niton has set up a helpline and email so that you can contact us if you are shielding and need help getting essential items or prescriptions, or need other kinds of help. See more here.

(Source: BBC)

So, why does it matter?

The distinctions may appear trivial, but they can have big impacts. Everyone in the country MUST practice social distancing for the next 3 weeks, whilst shielding and self-isolating are EXTRA MEASURES taken only by extremely vulnerable people and those with coronavirus symptoms respectively.

The impact on everyday village life can be especially seen when going about (or not going about) your weekly shop. If you are social distancing, you can still shop for essential items, but must practice the social distancing measures above. Those who are shielding or self-isolating should not go out.

If you need help with getting essential items or prescriptions, you can email an order to Norris's for delivery - read more here.