Coronavirus: what does it mean to ‘keep your distance’?

Please note: that this is a news item from March 16, 2020.

Read the frequently asked questions about the approach to tackling coronavirus in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands needs everyone’s help in the fight against coronavirus. You’re allowed to go outside, do the shopping or walk the dog. But whenever possible, people should keep 1.5 metres (two arms lengths) away from each other. But what does this mean in practice?

Visiting people

  • It’s all right to have a cup of coffee at a friend’s home. But you should do your best to avoid visiting elderly people and people with weakened immune systems, because they form a high-risk group. It’s better to contact them in other ways, such as by telephone, video call or writing a letter.
  • If you are over 70 or have a weakened immune system, limit your in-person social contacts as much as possible. You could try using other forms of communication like video calls instead.
  • If you want to celebrate a birthday or another special occasion, you are advised to postpone the party for the time being. This is because it’s hard to ensure that people in a group keep their distance from one another.

Daily life

  • It’s all right to go for a run or bike ride with your friends, as long as you do your best to keep 1.5 metres away from each other. And other people.
  • You can do the shopping - the supermarkets are open - but avoid crowds and keep 1.5 metres away from other people.
  • You can also order food to be delivered. The delivery service will bring the food to your home without making physical contact.
  • You can also pick up food from takeaway restaurants or snack bars, but take steps to avoid crowds and make sure you don’t get too close to other people. Coffee shops (cannabis cafés) are also open for pick-ups.
  • You may also go to the hairdresser or nail salon, but do your best to keep 1.5 metres away from other customers.


  • Naturally you can’t keep your own family members at a distance, especially not small children. But when you’re in a group that includes non-family members, make sure you keep 1.5 metres away from the others.
  • Of course, children can still play outside, in playgrounds, on squares, on the beach or in the woods. But avoid big groups.


At funerals, limit the number of people attending to no more than 100. And though it’s difficult, find a way to show your sympathy other than shaking hands or embracing.

Remember: if you have cold-like symptoms, even mild ones — sneezing, a sore throat, a runny nose, a slight cough or a fever below 38 degrees Celsius — stay at home. By staying at home you’ll protect yourself and others from a coronavirus infection.