Learning to live with COVID-19

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   13th Jul 2020

Unfortunately, the coronavirus is likely to be with us for some time – here is our guide on ways to stay safe, while also adapting to a new way of life shaped by COVID-19.

“If an environment does not feel safe, or it means you are unable to follow public health advice, do not risk it and go elsewhere,” Dr. Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health.

As Ireland slowly opens up and people emerge from their homes to return to work and shop, remember that while a gargantuan national effort and innumerable sacrifices have meant that we have managed to suppress COVID-19 for now, please remember that it has not gone away.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease, which has caused almost 2,000 deaths in Ireland, so now is not the time for complacency particularly if we want to keep our loved ones and the more vulnerable members of our community safe.

Mind Your Mental Health

The past few months have been extremely stressful for everyone and reopening of society can also be an anxious time for many.

Just as it is important to get regular exercise and eat well for your physical health it is also vitally important to mind your mental health. Remember it is very normal to feel anxious or worried at the moment and please seek help if you need it.

A new mental health and wellbeing initiative to support people during COVID-19 crisis was launched by the HSE and the Department of Health in collaboration with a range of cross-Government partners It offers support and resources to help deal with the stress, anxiety, and isolation currently experienced by many in Ireland.

For more information and support please see gov.ie/together and YourMentalHealth.ie.

“ If an environment does not feel safe, or it means you are unable to follow public health advice, do not risk it and go elsewhere,”

Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health.

Advice for cocooners

The HSE has advised that all those over the age of 70 and people with certain conditions, which make them “very high risk”, should continue to cocoon. In relation to heart disease and stroke, they include the following:

Many of these most severely affected patients are older so automatically fall into the group who should cocoon. 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 continue to cocoon.

Many other patients with heart disease are in a slightly lower risk category (still classed as high risk but not very high risk). These patients don’t need to cocoon but should still take extra precautions and ensure physical distancing and avoid close contact with strangers etc.

Some heart and stroke patients may also have other medical conditions such as cancer or other diseases causing or requiring immune suppression.

Visit the HSE website to see full list of people who need to cocoon.

If you are unsure if you need to cocoon or not, talk to your doctor.

According to the most recent guidance for vulnerable groups from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC),  “people over 70 years of age and those with serious underlying medical conditions (as listed above) which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) are advised to follow cocooning measures in order to keep themselves safe.”

“People over 70 years of age and those with serious underlying medical conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) are advised to follow cocooning measures,"

Health Protection Surveillance Centre

Risk factors for COVID-19

COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come so we must all try to live with it as best we can. Remember that as yet there is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 all we have in the ongoing fight against this virus are: social distancing, hand washing, and good cough etiquette.

It might be handy to remember the risk factors for contracting COVID-19, which will inform your decision-making

Remember that as yet there is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 all we have in the ongoing fight against this virus are: social distancing, hand washing, and good cough etiquette.

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Personal risk

As society opens up much of the advice is around assessing the risks based on your own personal situation and making a decision that best suits your own individual needs based on those risks.

According to the HPSC, “It is recognised that you have the right to exercise your own judgment as to the extent to which you consider the cocooning guidance appropriate for you. However, older people (aged 70 years and over) and those with pre-existing chronic conditions have been found to be more susceptible to COVID-19 infection and are most likely to experience severe consequences from infection so it is still recommended that you remain cocooned as much as possible for your safety. Should you wish to visit someone, receive visitors in your home, visit shops, and engage in other outdoor activities, you should continue to strictly adhere to the public health and social distancing guidance.”

Do remember, however, that it is important to try to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. We have lots of information and advice on ways to exercise safely and eat well during this time here.

As society opens up much of the advice is around assessing the risks based on your own personal situation and making a decision that best suits your own individual needs based on those risks.

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I am continuing to cocoon what is the advice around going shopping?

If you wish to visit a shop or shopping centre remember to maintain social distance and wash your hands on returning home. A lot of shops have dedicated shopping hours for cocooners so it’s a good idea to stick to these times for your own safety. You should also wear a face covering if you can while in shops or shopping centres or indeed any indoor space where social distancing is not possible.

Can I use public transport?

For now the advice around using public transport is that it should only be used at non-peak times where possible, and if you do decide to use public transport, you should wear a face covering at all times.

From Monday 13 July wearing a face covering on public transport is mandatory and not complying with these rules means that you are breaking the law.

According to the Department of Health, “The regulations provide that, from 13 July 2020, members of the public shall not, without reasonable excuse, travel by public transport without wearing a face covering. “

Reasonable excuse includes where a person:

The Regulations do not apply to children under the age of 13.

If you have severe breathing difficulties to the extent that you cannot wear a face mask then it is best to avoid public transport. If your breathing difficulties are a new symptom or if they worsen please seek medical advice.

For more information on face coverings please see here.

From Monday 13 July, wearing a face covering on public transport is mandatory.

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Returning to Work

For now, public health advice is that everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

According to the HSE, people in the “very high risk” group need to continue to cocoon and therefore should not return to the workplace.

If you are not in this group but have a condition listed in the “at-risk” group such as high blood pressure, heart failure, obesity, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), diabetes, or are over the age of 60, you should try to work from home if at all possible.

If you cannot work from home and you have to go to your workplace, take extra care to practice social distancing where possible and wash your hands regularly and properly.

The HSE has more information on returning to work here

Remember you should not return to work if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, are self-isolating, or have not spoken to your employer beforehand.

For now, public health advice is that everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

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Download the Covid Tracker App

The HSE and Department of Health have recently launched a free COVID Tracker app that can be downloaded to your mobile phone. It will help us to protect each other and slow the spread of COVID-19.

If you use the app you will be told if you have been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive for COVID-19, be able to track any symptoms you have and get advice on what to do, anonymously warn close contacts if you test positive for coronavirus. Downloading the app also makes contact tracing quicker for the health service and helps map and predict the spread of the virus in Ireland.

The COVID-19 tracker app detects any phone you are in close contact with that also has the app, the distance between your phone and another app users’ phone and the length of time your phone is near another app users’ phone.

Every 2 hours the app downloads a list of anonymous IDs. Other people using the app who have tested positive for coronavirus have shared these with the HSE. If you have been closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with any of these phones you’ll get an alert that you are a close contact.

More than 1 million people have already downloaded the covid tracker app and we would encourage everyone to download and use it as part of our collective national effort against the spread of COVID-19.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “We are asking the people of Ireland to download the COVID Tracker App. Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment, testing and contact tracing are vital to our ongoing collective efforts to minimise the spread of COVID-19. The app is integral to contact tracing, working in tandem with the key public health measures of social distancing, hand washing, covering our coughs, and wearing face coverings, helping us to stay safe and to protect each other.”

For more information on the Covid Tracker App and details on how to download it please see here.

 

More than 1 million people have already downloaded the covid tracker app and we would encourage everyone to download and use it as part of our collective national effort against the spread of COVID-19.

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Foreign travel

For now, public health advice is that nobody should travel outside the island of Ireland for non-essential travel.

Therefore it is recommended that you do not go abroad on holiday at the moment.

Avoid large gatherings particularly in confined areas where it becomes difficult to maintain adequate physical distancing.

As Dr Glynn said recently, “If an environment does not feel safe, or it means you are unable to follow public health advice, do not risk it and go elsewhere.”

This is good general advice for anyone who is unsure of whether or not they should take part in increased social activity as the country reopens.

As we learn to live with COVID-19, it is advised that you avoid, crowded spaces and large gatherings particularly those held indoors. Practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly, remember good cough etiquette, and wear a face mask in shops and public transport or any indoor space where social distancing is not possible.

Stay safe to protect yourself, those you love, and the more vulnerable members of society.

Please note the information on this page is for general guidance and comes from national and international guidance. It is not intended to replace the individual support of a medical professional.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. 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

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 here

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 donate to the Irish Heart Foundation please see here.

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