Social and physical distancing is an important part of keeping you and others safe during the Coronavirus outbreak. Whether a friend or someone at the grocery store isn’t listening to the advice around physical or social distancing, it can be challenging to find the right way to tell them. Here are three ways to politely tell people to keep their distance.

3 ways to politely tell people to keep their distance

1. Strangers: If you’re at a grocery store and someone is standing a little too close for comfort (and it’s difficult to move away), here’s what you can say:

  • “I know it’s challenging when we’re in a public space, but I’m trying to practice social distancing. Would you mind giving me some additional space? I’m trying to keep the vulnerable people in my life as safe as possible. Thank you for understanding.”

2. Friends: Friends of yours may think it’s okay to break the 2 metre rule because you’re familiar with one another, but physical and social distancing is just as important with friends. In fact, we should be limiting all social gatherings, no matter how small. Here’s what you can say to a friend if they’re not giving you the space you need:

  • “I wish I could have you and the gals over for book club, but right now I have to make my health and the health of others a priority and I would feel terrible if we got one another sick.”

3. Family: Do you have family members who are particularly vulnerable? If so, it’s probably a good idea to keep your distance in order to keep them as safe as possible. Here’s what you can say to them if they are looking to spend time with you:

  • “I want to catch up with you too, but your health is really important to me. In the spirit of social distancing, let’s schedule a FaceTime or Skype tonight instead. I can show you how to set it up if you’re not sure how.”

Here’s how to practice social distancing, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control:

Social distancing is a way that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close contact with others. Even though we are not sick, we should still keep about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed from one another when we can when outside our homes.

  • Limit activities outside your home
  • Use virtual options to connect with others
  • If you are out in public, try to keep 2 metres between yourself and others.
  • ‎Keep your hands at your side when possible
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cough into your elbow or sleeve
  • Avoid social activities in large gatherings

Did we miss anything? Share your tips for *politely* telling people you need some space below in the comments!

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Where do we fit in?

Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation.

About Consumer Protection BC

We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at