Cocooning during COVID-19


On Friday 27 March, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This included the introduction of cocooning to protect people who are over 70 years of age and those who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19, by minimising all interaction between them and other people. Cocooning has been introduced to protect people who could become very ill if they are infected with COVID-19 from coming into contact with the virus.

This document gives practical guidance on cocooning. It includes information on what cocooning involves, advice on how to access food and medical supplies safely, and details of a range of social services to support to older and vulnerable people who are cocooning. You can also read our documents:

What is cocooning?

Cocooning initially involved staying at home in all circumstances. From 5 May 2020, if you are cocooning you can leave your house for exercise or a drive, but you should continue to avoid contact with other people.

While you are cocooning, you should not go to the shops or attend any indoor gatherings, even if you feel fit and well. You should also avoid all non-essential face-to-face interaction, including interaction with other members of your household. You can meet with people from outside your household provided that you maintain a safe distance from them and only meet with them:

  • Outdoors
  • Within 5 kilometres of your home (and their home)
  • In a group of no more than 4 people

The HSE has published detailed guidelines on cocooning. You should:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Not leave your house except for specific purposes.
  3. Not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in your home, weddings and religious services.
  4. Not go out for shopping and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, you should ask for them to be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  6. Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
  7. Keep phones and devices charged, and have credit on your phone so you can stay connected.

Cocooning does not mean you need to be inactive or feel lonely. You should try to find ways of staying in touch with others and take part in your normal activities remotely from your home. You must not participate in any activities that involve any contact with other people.

Who needs to cocoon?

The Government has published a list of people who should cocoon to protect themselves from COVID-19. They include:

  • Everyone aged 70 years or over
  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • People on immunosuppression therapies that might increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant and have significant heart disease

If you are not sure if you should be cocooning, you should phone your GP.

Everyone else should follow public health guidance on physical distancing.

Accessing food, medicine and cash

Family, friends and neighbours can support you to get food and medical supplies. They must follow physical distancing guidelines. Where possible, you should use online shopping services.

If these options are not available to you, the government has put help in place hrough the local authorities, working with voluntary sector services, to make sure you have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines. You can read more in our document Community support during COVID-19.

The HSE support line can give you advice through its website and helpline.

The 5 retail banks (AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent tsb and Ulster Bank), all have a dedicated freephone helpline to help you if you are cocooning.

The BPFI guide on Cocooning during COVID-19 (pdf) gives advice on how you can manage your day to day banking safely while at home. It covers:

  • Using over the phone or online banking
  • Making payments over the phone using your debit or credit card
  • How you can contact each bank’s dedicated helplines – calls from cocooning customers are prioritised
  • Nominating a trusted person to help with your banking
  • Keeping your money safe

Can people come to my home?

Visits from people who provide you with essential support such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care can continue. Your carers and care workers must stay away if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Everyone coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often while they are there.

The Government also recommends that you put together a list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell. You should also contact regular visitors to your home to let them know that they should not come unless they are giving you essential care like help with washing, dressing or feeding.

In the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Businesses, it is hoped that you will be able to receive visitors from phase 2 (8 June 2020). For now, it is possible to meet with other people outdoors, in groups of no more than 4, provided that you maintain social distance and do not travel beyond 5 kilometres from your home.

Can I visit my GP or go a hospital appointment?

You should contact your GP by phone. If you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or specialist for advice on whether you should attend.

It is possible that your hospital may need to cancel or postpone some clinics and appointments. You should contact your hospital or clinic to confirm appointments. If you fall seriously ill, you should go to hospital.

What you should do if you have someone else living with you

While the rest of your household do not have to adopt cocooning measures for themselves, they should support you in cocooning and follow guidance on physical distancing and handwashing and respiratory hygiene.

If you are living with other people you should:

  • Stay away from other people in your home most of the time in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that you can open.
  • Try to keep at least 1 metre (3 ft) and where possible 2 metres away from them if you have to go into a room with other people.
  • Clean your hands regularly and cover your mouth with your arm or a tissue if you cough or sneeze.
  • Use a toilet and bathroom that no one else in the house uses, if possible. If you are sharing a bathroom, make sure that it is kept clean.
  • Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for bathing or showering and for hands.
  • If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, you take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to do the washing up. If this is not possible, wash your dishes using your usual washing-up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. Do not share cutlery and utensils. When using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these
  • Clean all surfaces, such as counters, table-tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets and toilet handles, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day with a cleaning product.
  • When cleaning you should use your usual household products like detergents and bleach as these are very effective at getting rid of the virus. Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label and check they can be used on the surface you are cleaning.

Looking after your mental health

It is important to look after your mental health while you are cocooning. Use the telephone and internet to stay in touch with friends, family and neighbours.

You should move around as much as possible within your house (and garden if possible). Spend time with the windows open and try to find a space to sit and get some natural sunlight. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

Siel Bleu provides exercise programmes to older adults and adults living with chronic disease. It has published free online indoor exercise videos. The HSE has also published details of two chair based exercises that you can do at home.

The HSE has issued useful and practical information and advice on how to maintain positive mental health, as well as general guidance on looking after your mental health in old age.

If you need to talk to someone, contact Samaritans for free any time, day or night on 116123.

You can read more about mental health services that are available.

Community support helplines

Local authorities have established community support helplines that you can call if you need assistance while you are cocooning or self-isolating. You can read more in our document Community support during COVID-19.

Request a call back

If you have a question about your situation during the COVID-19 emergency period, you can request a call back from the Citizens Information Service.

Page edited: 19 May 2020