Coronavirus (COVID-19): Terminology

24 March 2020

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Lots of words have been used to talk about how we can protect ourselves and others from coronavirus (COVID-19).


We've created this simple guide to help you understand what these words mean and what you're advised to do and not to do.

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For more information, read our frequently asked questions about coronavirus. 

For details about risk levels, see our information on risk.

What's the difference between social distancing and 'strict' social distancing?

Unlike people in the high risk group (extremely clinically vulnerable), it is not necessary for people in the moderate group (clinically vulnerable) to shield themselves from the people they live with. However, people in the moderate group do still have a slightly increased risk of serious complications from coronavirus. Therefore, even though you’re still allowed to exercise and shop for food as per the government guidelines, you should do this as infrequently as possible, and take all possible precautions. As much as you can, try to shop for groceries online and do indoor exercise such as yoga.

If you are in the moderate risk group, you may already be used to taking extra precautions because of the medicine you take. For example, people taking azathioprine can be out in the sun, but are encouraged to be extra careful about sun protection. ‘Strict social distancing’ should be approached in a similar way – while it is safe to participate in the same activities as the general population, be mindful that your risk is slightly higher than other people, and always take extra care.

Everyone is exposed to different levels of risk, depending on where in the country you live, the people in your household and the type of work you do, amongst others. As long as you are following the rules set out by the government, it is a personal choice about how comfortable you are engaging in activities outside the home. See our information on returning to work to help you make your decision. 

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