Cocooning during COVID-19
This page gives practical guidance on how to protect yourself if you are aged over 70 or have a health condition that puts you at very high risk from COVID-19. This is sometimes called cocooning.
This page includes information on what cocooning involves, advice on how to access food and medical supplies safely, and details of a range of social services that support older and vulnerable people who are cocooning. You can also read information on services during COVID-19.
Ireland is at Level 5.
At levels 2 to 5, if you are over 70 or have a medical condition that puts you at very high risk from COVID-19, you are advised to:
- Avoid public transport
- Shop during designated hours
- Stay at home as much as possible and limit engagement to a very small network for short periods, keeping physical distance
Some people who may be at risk of isolation can form a support bubble with one other household. They can then act as one extended household.
You can form a support bubble if you:
- Live alone
- Live alone with children under the age of 18
- Share parenting or custody arrangements
- Live with an adult you provide care for
- Live by yourself and have a carer or carers who support you, including a live-in carer
What is cocooning?
Cocooning involves staying at home and reducing face-to-face interaction with other people as much as possible. It is intended to minimise your risk of getting COVID-19.
If you are over 70 years or have a medical condition that puts you at very high risk from COVID-19, you should:
- Stay at home as much as possible
- Avoid contact with someone showing symptoms of COVID-19
- Avoid gatherings where you can't keep 2 metres apart from other people
- Use face coverings when in busy public areas
- Try to avoid using public transport
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has information on staying safe if you are at very high risk.
Who is advised to cocoon?
The HSE has published a list of people who should stay home as much as possible. They include people over the age of 70 and people with medical conditions that put them at very high risk from COVID-19.
You can decide how much of the advice for people at very high risk is appropriate for you.
If you are not sure whether you are at very high risk, you should phone your GP.
Everyone else should follow public health guidance to protect yourself and others.
Accessing food, medicine and cash while cocooning
Family, friends and neighbours can support you to get food and medical supplies. They should 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 through 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 Services during COVID-19.
The HSE support line can give you advice through its website and helpline.
Shops are providing dedicated hours for people who are cocooning. You can read more about how to shop safely during COVID-19.
You must wear a face covering in shops, shopping centres and other retail settings.
You should try to avoid using public transport. However, if you do need to use it, you should travel at non-peak times and only where you can maintain a safe physical distance of at least 2 metres from other passengers. You must wear a face covering on public transport. You should wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.
Can people come to my home?
If you are over 70 or at very high risk, you are advised to limit your contacts as much as possible.
Under Level 5 restrictions, you cannot have visitors to your home. Some people who may be at risk of isolation can nominate another household to mix with. This is called a support bubble. You can meet with 1 other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise.
If you are visiting someone who is cocooning, you should be extra careful and only visit for essential reasons. You should:
- Maintain a safe physical distance of at least 2 metres at all times
- Practice regular handwashing and appropriate respiratory hygiene
- Wear a face covering
- Not visit if you feel unwell
Visits from people who provide you with essential support such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue as normal. However, your carers and care workers should stay away if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.
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.
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) can help you if you are having difficulties using video calling services like Zoom and Skype. You can call NALA on freephone 1800 2020 65, or text LEARN to 50050.
Can I go out for exercise?
You can take exercise but you should be extra cautious and you should stay within 5km of your home during Level 5 restrictions.
If you go outside for exercise, you should:
- Choose a quiet time
- Stay 2 metres away from other people
- Avoid close face-to-face contact
- Avoid touching people or surfaces
- Wash your hands when you get home
Can I travel?
If you are cocooning, you should stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contact with other people.
You can read more about travel and COVID-19.
Can I visit my GP or go to 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.
If you need to share a car with someone outside of your household for essential reasons, you should both wear face coverings and keep as much distance as possible.
What you should do if you have someone else living with you
You can interact normally with any members of your household that are also cocooning.
If they are not cocooning, they can help you stay well by:
- Following the advice on social distancing and hand hygiene at home
- Spending as little time as possible in shared rooms, for example, the kitchen and sitting areas
- Opening windows to let fresh air into shared spaces
- Using separate towels, including hand towels and tea towels
- Cleaning cutlery, dishes and pans thoroughly
- Cleaning a shared bathroom each time they use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces
- Cleaning objects and surfaces they touch often (such as door handles, kettles and phones) using your usual cleaning products
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 in 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.
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 Services during COVID-19.