As fears over COVID-19 grow and health authorities worldwide urge or even force people to isolate themselves, "social distancing," or shakai kyori senryaku in Japanese, has become a buzz phrase online.

But what does that really look like and what is the cost of the draconian restrictions that are being placed on citizens in some of the hardest-hit countries?

At its most basic level, social distancing refers to measures taken to increase the physical space between individuals in a bid to reduce the chance of transmission.