COVID-19 – Life under Level 5 and social bubbles

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   21st Oct 2020

The concept of social bubbles will make life under Level 5 easier for those living or parenting alone

At midnight tonight (Wednesday 21st of October), Ireland enters Level 5 of the Government’s Plan for Living With COVID-19.

Increasing case numbers, hospitalisations, admissions to ICU and sadly deaths has meant that once again we have been asked to do all we can to help prevent the further transmission of COVID-19.

While the move to Level 5 (the highest level of restrictions) means that many retail and other services will once again be forced to close, it is important to remember that unlike the severe lockdown in March and April this year, a greater number of essential services are to remain open this time.

You can read the full list of essential retail and services that will remain open here. They include GPs (which never closed), hospital services, dentists, physiotherapists, and other therapy services. Remember if you need medical care these services are open so please seek help; as regular illnesses do not disappear just because COVID-19 is here.

As reported earlier this year, there was a worrying decrease in the number of people suffering from heart attacks and strokes presenting to hospital during the first lockdown in March and April.

The perceived reasons for this included fear of contracting COVID-19 or not wanting to burden the health services. However, it is vitally important that if you think you are having a heart attack or stroke that you call 999 or 112 immediately and seek urgent medical care.

"It is vitally important that if you think you are having a heart attack or stroke that you call 999 or 112 immediately and seek urgent medical care."

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Support Bubbles

Another initiative that will make life in Level 5 a lot easier for people living on their own is the introduction of the concept of social or support bubbles

Under Level 5 we are not allowed to have any visitors to our homes or gardens and social or support bubbles are a way of supporting anyone at risk of isolation and loneliness as a result of the restrictions.

Who can form a support bubble

You can form a support bubble with another household irrespective of its size:

Support bubbles are designed to help you if you live on your own. However, you can only form a support bubble with one other household if they are not already part of a support bubble. Therefore you should choose just one household to be your social bubble and they can only visit you and nobody else. This is to ensure that contacts are kept to a minimum. In essence, your social bubble becomes your extended household and you theirs.

You can visit the home of those in your support bubble and they can visit your home. You can also meet outdoors and in places other than home.

Wherever possible, you should choose a household in your locality to form your support bubble, but you can form a support bubble with a household outside the 5-kilometre limit.

The reason for this is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between areas that might have lots of cases and ones that have low numbers of cases.

Apart from mixing with those in your own household or support bubble, under Level 5 you can also meet one other household outside.

Once again we have all been asked to stay at home and only leave the house for essential reasons and for exercise. You can only exercise within 5 km from your home. You can read all the information about life in Level 5, which is expected to last for six weeks here.

" Social or support bubbles are a way of supporting anyone at risk of isolation and loneliness as a result of the restrictions."

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Older people and those who are medically vulnerable

Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgment. It is recommended that you stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time while remaining physically distanced. When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.

In relation to heart disease and stroke, people who are medically vulnerable or very high risk include the following:

Many of these most severely affected patients are older so automatically fall into those aged over 70. Older people tend to have a less robust immune system, which makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 if they get it, which is why those over 70 have been advised to be particularly careful.

Some heart and stroke patients may also have other medical conditions such as cancer or other diseases causing or requiring immune suppression putting them in the very high-risk category.

Visit the HSE website to see a full list of people who are at very high risk or high risk

If you are unsure which category you fall into talk to your doctor.

" Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgment."

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People who are at high risk

Many other patients with heart disease are in a slightly lower risk category (still classed as “high risk” but not in the “very high risk” as listed above).

These patients should still take extra precautions and ensure physical distancing and avoid close contact with strangers etc. If you are in this category you should continue to take extra care to protect yourself from COVID-19.

This means:

You should work from home if you are at high risk from coronavirus. If you cannot work from home and you have to go to your workplace, take extra care to:

Ask the people in your life to take extra care to protect you from coronavirus

" The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week from 9 am to 1 pm."

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We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week from 9 am to 1 pm. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

Please support our work

If you found this article helpful and would like to support our work with people affected by heart disease and stroke, please see here.

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