What does easing of restrictions mean for cocooners?

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   21st May 2020

As Ireland emerges slowly from lock-down what does this mean for those who are cocooning? Our Medical Director Dr Angie Brown explains.

Who should continue to cocoon?

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

However, recent changes have meant that people who are cocooning can go outside to exercise within 5 km of their home and meet up with other people outside in groups of up to four people.

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

Remember if you are cocooning you can leave your homes for exercise as long as you avoid contact with other people and remain within 5km of your home.


Q. I have been cocooning what do the recent lifting of restrictions in phase I mean for me?

A. From Monday the 18th of May 2020 Ireland has moved into the first phase of lifting of the restrictions put in place since the 28th of March last. For the majority of us the message remains the same, to stay at home.

Some retail outlets like hardware shops and opticians have been allowed to reopen and construction sites can also start up again. However, despite these changes, high-risk individuals still need to cocoon as much as they can. Therefore, the advice from the HSE has not changed in this regard. You can read more about cocooning here.

Remember if you are cocooning you can leave your homes for exercise as long as you avoid contact with other people and remain within 5km of your home. Remember also to avoid shops and keep a distance of 2 metres between you and other people.

It is important to try and take as much regular exercise as you can, eat healthily and stop smoking if you smoke. It remains very important that you avoid contact with people other than those you live with, and wash your hands regularly particularly when you return home.

Q. If I am cocooning can I meet up with other people outside?

A. The HSE advice is that those who are cocooning can meet in small groups of up to four people outdoors if they wish.

If you choose to meet people you should:

If you have a specific condition that means your doctor has advised against meeting other people, always follow your doctor’s advice. If you are unsure about this please contact your doctor about your own individual situation.

" It’s important for each family to sit down together and discuss what is possible and most suitable for their own circumstance to facilitate the slow release of lockdown as safely as possible,"

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , The Irish Heart Foundation

Q. One of the members of my family has returned to work and I am anxious that there is an increased risk of them catching the virus and bringing it home. What can I do to minimise that risk?

If you are cocooning and someone who lives with you is returning to work, the advice will vary depending on the type of work that person does. However, in general those individuals going to work need to make sure that their work place is as safe as possible and that they practice social distancing, respiratory etiquette and wash their hands regularly.

It would be useful for the member of your household who is returning to work to check with their work place to see what arrangements have been made in this regard.

For some it may be possible and easier to continue to work from home.

On returning from work they should ensure that they wash their hands immediately before touching anything and it’s a good idea to sanitise door handles or other surfaces that are used regularly such as kettles, phones etc.

In some cases, it may be possible to separate out the washing facilities in the home i.e. if there are two toilets one could be used solely for the person who is working and the other for those who are cocooning to further reduce contact between those cocooning and those going out. You should use separate towels including hand towels and tea towels. Try to practise social distancing as much as possible in the house.

It’s important for each family to sit down together and discuss what is possible and most suitable for their own circumstance to facilitate the slow release of lockdown as safely as possible.

Additional information

Even though it is very hard, the HSE advises that you should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of your household while you are cocooning.

While its important that for now you continue to cocoon other people that live with you but are not cocooning can help you stay well by:

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: 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.


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