Furlough and quarantinis: The 'new normal' words and phrases after 100 days of lockdown

People engage in conversation while adhering social distancing rules in Brighton. (PA)
People engage in conversation while adhering social distancing rules in Brighton. (PA)

The coronavirus pandemic has seen several new words and phrases enter our everyday vocabularies.

From scientific terms to slang words popularised on social media, coronavirus has changed the way we speak to one another.

Tuesday marks 100 days since the unprecedented nationwide shutdown began on 23 March.

Here is a round-up of all the most important terms we discovered during lockdown and what they mean.

A man on the Jubilee line on the London Underground tube network wearing a protective facemask. (PA)
A man on the Jubilee line on the London Underground tube network wearing a protective facemask. (PA)


A bubble is defined as a group of people with whom you have close physical contact. The idea was first introduced in New Zealand.

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, single adults living alone – or single parents whose children are under 18 – can now form a support bubble with one other household.

The second household can be of any size.

Contact tracing

The process of interviewing every patient with the virus to determine who else they may have come in contact with — then testing those individuals to see if they are carrying the virus.

According to the World Health Organization: “When systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 and is an essential public health tool for controlling the virus.”


A slang term for someone who ignores the warnings regarding public health or safety during the pandemic.

Urban Dictionary defines a covidiot as someone who "stubbornly ignores 'social distancing' protocol, thus helping to further spread COVID-19".

Flattening the curve

Using containment and mitigation strategies to slow the spread of disease in order to avoid a scenario in which the NHS is running beyond its capacity and supplies are scant.


Under the UK government’s furlough scheme, more than nine million workers have had 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month, covered by the government while being put on leave.

The scheme was unveiled by chancellor Rishi Sunak to prevent mass redundancies.

Firms have to start paying towards the scheme from August, and it will close entirely in October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (PA)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (PA)

Key worker

Key workers are the people who needed to keep working from outside their homes during the lockdown.

Professionals listed as key workers by the government include medics, firefighters, police officers, shopkeepers and journalists.

Personal protective equipment or PPE

The term for clothing, gloves, masks and other equipment that healthcare workers and others wear to minimise exposure to pathogens or other hazards.

R rate

The reproduction number, or R rate, is a way of rating a disease's ability to spread by measuring the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, on average.


The act of intentionally remaining in one place to prevent infection or the spread of infection.

Those who display symptoms of the virus are urged to self-isolate for 14 days, during which they should avoid contact with others and not leave the house.

Social distancing

Keeping a distance of one metre or more from others to prevent the spread of disease and limiting frivolous activities such as social gatherings and unnecessary travel.


A quarantini is defined by Urban Dictionary as “a strong alcoholic beverage that is made when people are quarantined, or otherwise locked up or trapped in a location for an extended period of time”.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Read more about COVID-19

How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms
How easing of lockdown rules affects you
In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal
How public transport could look after lockdown
How our public spaces will change in the future

Help and advice

Read the full list of official FAQs here
10 tips from the NHS to help deal with anxiety
What to do if you think you have symptoms
How to get help if you've been furloughed