Health experts have agreed that any chance at slowing down the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic starts and ends with social distancing

The theory revolves around a series of non-medical infection control actions that have been shown to slow down the spread of contagious diseases. 

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across Arab countries, governments have moved to impose curfews, order self-quarantines, and call on people to follow social distancing regulations. 

These actions are all aimed at curbing the spread of the disease, though it looks like many have yet to grasp this concept. 

From hosting weddings to welcoming groups of visitors at home, here are ways through which some Arabs are practically destroying our chances of slowing the spread of COVID-19: 

1. Holding indoor gatherings

Avoiding gatherings is one of the most important parts of social distancing, but many Arabs don't seem to be adhering to this simple rule and are going ahead with indoor get-togethers. 

The majority of Arabs are used to hosting members of their extended families in their homes for coffee or dinner. This might be the reason why many still welcome relatives who don't live with them even though this is detrimental to social distancing protocols. 

What you can do: Limit the number of people entering your home on a daily basis; contact close relatives who don't live with you online or via the phone. 

2. Lining up at supermarkets

The rule of thumb when it comes to social distancing is to stay at least two meters away from other people. This went straight out of the window in supermarkets in the Arab world as panicked shoppers rushed to stock up on groceries beginning of March.

Many countries since then, like Lebanon and Kuwait, have shown proper improvement and a lot of effort has been made to keep people safe. 

What you can do: The next time you head out to get the essentials, make sure to keep your distance. While you're at it, please don't over-buy and stockpile, we're all in this together. 

3. Crowding public transportation

Public transportation in Egypt.

Public transportation has been shut down in several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE but is still functioning in Egypt. 

This week, images of hundreds of people crowding the country's metro stations and trains sparked outrage among Egyptians trying to protect themselves from COVID-19. People are right to be angry because after all, it's so easy to spread an infectious disease on a packed train. 

What you can do: If public transportation is still available in your country, avoid using it unless it's urgent. Even then, try your best to keep your distance. 

4. Going out for walks en masse

Earlier this month, hundreds in Lebanon defied logic and common sense when they decided that the best way to practice social distancing was to exercise outdoors... in a crowded corniche. 

Yes, it's OK to get some fresh air while on lockdown but not in large groups. 

What you can do: If you're heading for a walk outdoors, make sure the area you're working out in isn't crowded at all; keep a two-meter distance if there are people around. 

5. Hosting a wedding zaffe

As the majority of the Lebanese lock themselves in to help flatten COVID-19's curve in the country, a newlywed couple went ahead with a packed zaffe (Arabic wedding entrance/dance) in the street. So much for social distancing. 

What you can do: We understand this is a very difficult time for couples who were getting ready to tie the knot but grand celebrations of any sort can really put people's lives at risk at the time being. What many are choosing to do is delay their weddings but if that's not an option, maybe skip the zaffe and packed ceremonies.  

6. Praying in large groups

Clerics from all faiths have called on religious people to stop gathering for prayers and to instead pray at home. Churches and mosques have been closed to the public in most Arab countries. A number of TV channels in Lebanon are broadcasting Sunday mass for Christians to remain indoors.

Unfortunately, though, many ignored all warnings and went ahead with public prayers anyway. 

What you can do: Pray at home and advise others to do the same. 

7. Going out in groups

Playing a football game with friends in the streets is not part of social distancing. Neither is playing a prank on your mates in public. 

What you can do: Avoid get-togethers with friends or colleagues for the next few weeks. Stay connected with them online or via the phone. 

8. Ignoring all the rules

Some people are choosing to simply ignore all social distancing rules. This is either because they're overwhelmed or it could be that they simply couldn't care less if they contract or pass on a serious and fatal illness. 

It's completely fine to feel down, upset, panicked or overwhelmed during a viral outbreak of this magnitude (most of us are) but don't let that stop you from at least trying to protect yourself and those around you. 

What you can do: Instead of lashing out and ignoring all social distancing rules, reach out if you're feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Also, keep reminding yourself and others that social distancing can and will help save lives.