Table 1

Health effects of social distancing measures and actions to mitigate them

MechanismSummary of effectsSummary of mitigations
Economic effects• Income losses for workers unable to work
• Longer term increase in unemployment if businesses fail
• Recession
• Protect incomes at the level of the minimum income for healthy living
• Provide food and other essential supplies
• Reduce longer term unemployment
• Prioritise inclusive and sustainable economic development during recovery
Social isolation• Lack of social contact, particularly for people who live alone and have less access to digital connectivity
• Difficulty accessing food and other supplies
• Encourage and support other forms of social contact
• Provide supplies
• Provide clear communications
• Restrict duration of isolation
Family relationships• Home confinement may increase family violence and abuse
• Potential exploitation of young people not in school
• Offer support to vulnerable families
• Ensure realistic expectations for home working and home schooling
• Provide safety advice and support services for women at risk of domestic abuse
Health related behaviours• Potential for increased substance use, increased online gambling, and a rise in unintended pregnancies
• Reduction in physical activity as sports facilities closed and less utilitarian walking and cycling
• Advice and support on substance use, gambling, contraception
• Encourage daily physical activity
Disruption to essential services• Direct effects on health and social care demand
• Unwillingness to attend healthcare settings may affect care of other conditions
• Loss of workforce may affect essential services
• Robust business continuity planning
• Prioritise essential services including healthcare, social care, emergency services, utilities, and the food chain
• Guidance, online consultations, and outreach, for conditions other than covid-19
• Attention to supply chains for non-covid medicines
Disruption to education• Loss of education and skills, particularly for young people at critical transitions
• Likely increase in educational inequalities from reliance on home schooling
• Provide support for young people in critical transitions, and low income or at-risk children and young people who lack IT and good home study environments
Traffic, transport, and green space• Reduced aviation and motorised traffic with reduced air pollution, noise, injuries, and carbon emissions in short term
• Restricted public transport may reduce access for people without a car
• Longer term reluctance to use public transport may increase use of private cars
• Restricted access to green space, which has benefits for physical and mental health
• Discourage unnecessary car journeys
• Support active travel modes
• Support safe access to green spaces
• Post-pandemic support for public transport
Social disorder• Potential for unrest if supplies run out or there is widespread discontent about the response
• Harassment of people believed to be at risk of transmitting the virus
• Mitigation of other effects will reduce risk of social disorder
• Avoid stigmatising ill people or linking the pandemic to specific populations
Psychosocial impacts• High level of public fear and anxiety
• Community cohesion could increase as people respond collectively
• Provide clear communications
• Support community organisations responding to local needs