Physical Distancing

What does it mean?

“Physical Distancing” with social connectedness (formerly called social distancing) is a relatively new term that is being used to outline to citizens how they can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Physical distancing is a term that refers to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully reduce community transmission of the virus.

The Government of Canada defines physical distancing as measures taken to minimize close contact with others in the community and include: quarantine and self-isolation at the individual level as well as other community-based approaches (e.g. avoiding crowding, school measures and closures, workplace measures and closures, public/mass gathering cancellations). This means that physical distancing includes everything from full-on quarantine to just generally avoiding crowded places.

The main point of physical distancing is taking the deliberate action to increase the space between people. If you do have to be in public, maintain physical distancing (2 metres separation) to decrease or eliminate the risk for droplet transmission. 

So what does this mean to the average resident or business?

The City has taken steps to assist with physical distancing in St. Albert through current facility and front counter closures and event cancellations/postponements. We have also taken other steps, such as limiting the number of riders on buses to 50 per cent capacity to encourage distance between patrons during travel. Another recent example included limited seating space during the March 16 Council meeting in which seats were blocked off so that visitors could only sit 2 metres apart.

What can you do as a local business owner?

Premier Jason Kenney has announced the closure of all non-essential retail and personal service businesses, as well as dine-in restaurants, effective immediately, in order to maintain the health of Albertans.

If you have questions about whether your business is considered essential, please see the Government of Alberta’s list, or email the Government of Alberta directly at to:

When to not be at work

  • Follow Alberta Health Services guidelines for when to send home sick employees and when employees should initiate self-quarantine
  • Allow all employees who can to work from home
  • Remain flexible with hours of operations, allowing staff to stagger shifts, so they are not in close physical contact


  • Have hand sanitizer available to patrons as soon as they come into your business
  • Use disinfecting wipes to clean pin pads on credit/debit machines after each use.
  • Don’t have staff handle patron debit and credit cards; have patrons use the machine themselves and then disinfect the machine
  • Use gloves as much as possible


  • For department meetings and staff gatherings, cancel or keep to a smaller team. Use virtual meetings whenever possible
  • When you do have to be together, keep a distance of 2 metres between people
  • If your business will allow for it, close offices to foot traffic
  • Set back approaches to counters, so patrons stay 2 metres back from counter staff if feasible
  • Put up signs asking patrons to stay 2 metres apart in line-ups
  • Limit capacity in restaurants and businesses as much as possible, so patrons remain 2 metres apart
  • For close-contact industries such as hair-styling, massage, etc., follow Alberta Health Services guidelines, including thorough cleaning procedures and hand-washing

protect yourself and others

  • Keep at least 6 feet (the length of a bicycle) from others when going out for groceries, medical trips and other essential needs
  • Limit the number of times you leave your home for errands
  • Try to shop at less busy times
  • Order online to have groceries or other items delivered if possible
  • Go for a walk in your neighbourhood or park while maintaining distance from others
  • Avoid overcrowding in elevators or other enclosed spaces
  • Follow Alberta’s recommendations on mass gatherings
  • Wash or sanitize your hands after touching communal surfaces


  • Have people order in advance if possible and pay in advance for pickup or delivery
  • If you can pay in advance, have delivery orders dropped off on doorsteps without contact
  • Support local business as much as possible

For more information

Additional Information

The following definitions of the different levels of physical distancing were taken from the Government of Canada website and are described as follows:

  • Mandatory quarantine: Defined as “the imposed separation or restriction of movement of individuals, groups, or communities, for a defined period of time and in a location determined by the public health authority.
  • Isolation: Not leaving your home, using public transportation, having supplies delivered rather than doing your own errands, and, in the case that you do need to leave your home, wearing a mask and maintaining two metres distance from others.
  • Voluntary home quarantine (“self-isolation”): remaining in a home setting and avoiding contact with others.
  • Protective self-separation: Avoiding contact with others and staying home when possible. Recommended for those who are high-risk (older adults, those with chronic underlying medical conditions or people with compromised immune systems).
  • Voluntary avoidance of crowded places: Involves avoiding crowded places or anywhere that rapid self-isolation may not be possible at the onset of symptoms.  If you do have to be in public, maintain physical distancing (2 meters separation) to reduce the risk for droplet transmission. 

Related Pages

Last edited: April 2, 2020