The Government has said all those who are over 70 or who are extremely medically vulnerable should "cocoon" for the next two weeks.  But what does that actually mean? 

Essentially, people in these two categories should not leave their homes at all.  

If you are in these categories you should not even go to the shops and you should not leave your home or garden to exercise.

This is for your own protection. 

You should have no interaction or minimal interaction with other people.

The Government advises that you should not attend any gathering at all - including religious services and gatherings in family homes. 

This applies to anyone over 70 even if you're currently fit and well, or anyone at all who is "extremely medically vulnerable".

What does the Government mean by extremely medically vulnerable?

The Government means those who have had organ transplants or who have other specific conditions.  They have particularly specified:

  • Those who are undergoing chemotherapy or radial radiotherapy for lung cancer.
  • People who have cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of their treatment.
  • People having cancer treatments which can affect the immune system -  they've given the examples of treatments such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs. 
  • They have also identified people with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
  • Those with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections. 
  • Those on immunosuppression therapies which would increase the risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant who have significant heart disease.
  • They've also recommended that if you are unsure whether or not you fall into the category of "extremely medically vulnerable" you should phone your doctor to discuss it. 

I am over 70, I don't have underlying conditions and I consider myself fit and healthy. Can I still go for my daily walk?

The Government is strongly advising all those over 70 to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for two weeks from today. So the advice is to get fresh air from your garden if you have one or open windows at home but do not go out. 

Should people continue to come to my home?

The Government says visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, support with your daily needs or social care should continue. 

But it says all carers and care workers must stay away if they have any symptoms of Covid-19. 

It advises you to contact regular visitors to your home, to let them know they should not come unless they are providing essential care such as help with washing dressing or feeding. 

Contact any care providers and agree a plan for continuing your care while you are cocooning. 

Should care workers take special precautions when they arrive at my home? 

All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when they come to your house and they should wash their hands often while they are there. 

If your main carer becomes unwell, you should have a list of alternative people who can help. 

I live with others, who are not over 70 or medically vulnerable, do they need to cocoon as well?

No. The Government says they are not required to cocoon. But they should support you and should stringently follow guidance on physical distancing when they are outside the home. They should also wash their hands thoroughly - especially when they arrive home and observe good respiratory etiquette. 

But how can I protect myself if I live with others who don't have to cocoon?

The Government advice is stay away from the others in your home for most of the time.

Do this in a well-ventilated room with a window you can open. 

If you have to go into the same room, keep at least one metre and if possible two metres away from other people. 

Clean your hands regulatory and practice good respiratory etiquette. 

Use a toilet and bathroom that no one else uses, if possible. 

If this is not possible the toilet and bathroom needs to be kept clean.  You should consider drawing up a rota for using the facilities, and you should use them first. 

Use separate towels from the other people 

Don't use the kitchen while others are using it.  And take your meals to your room to eat, if possible. 

Use a dishwasher to wash the family's dishes, if you have one.  Otherwise, wash them with usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. 

Don't share cutlery and utensils and use a separate tea towel for your own utensils. 

Clean all surfaces including counters, table tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.  You can do this with your normal household products. 

The Government acknowledges it will be extremely difficult for people to keep separate if they are sharing a home. But it asks you to do your very best to follow the guidance..

Everyone in the home should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face and regularly wash frequently touched surfaces. 

What can I do to protect myself?

The usual advice applies: Wash your hands! Do it after you blow your nose, sneeze, cough, eat or handle food.

Don't touch your face. 

Cover your mouth and face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissues into the bin.   Wash your hands straight afterwards. 

Stay away from anyone with symptoms. 

What happens if I have symptoms?

Fever, cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are the main symptoms. If you develop them, call your GP, the HSE phoneline at 1850 24 1850. If you're seriously ill call 112 or 999.  Don't visit GP, pharmacy or hospital unless you are told to do so. 

Prepare a hospital bag. This should include your emergency contact, list of medications, information on planned care appointments and anything you need for an overnight stay.  If you have an advanced care plan, that should also be included.

I live on my own, how will I get food and medicine without going out?

Obviously, you can get help from family, friends and neighbours who adhere to guidelines.  Use online services if necessary. 

But if none of these options are available, the Government says it is putting in place assistance through the local authorities, working with the voluntary sector to ensure you can have access to food, supplies and medicine.

It says each local authority will publish contact details.

Is there anyone I can call?

ALONE is providing a telephone support line seven days a week from 8am to 8pm at 


This is for all older people and their families to contact if they would like any advice reassurance or additional support.   Medically vulnerable people who are being advised to cocoon can also call this number. 

You can also call the HSE phoneline at 1850241850 if you are worried about symptoms.

I have a medical appointment next week.. What will I do?

Seek access to medical assistance remotely - is the advice from the Government.  Ring your GP, Consultant, hospital or clinic to get more information on your care. 

I will find it very difficult not to have contact with the outside world. What can I do to protect my mental health?

The Government acknowledges these measures will contribute to increasing stress - for those with or without existing mental health needs. 

If you are already receiving services for your mental health, you are advised to contact your keyworker or care coordinator or provider to review your plan.   Pick up a phone and call a friend. 

Call the Samaritans on 116 123

The Government advice recommends getting up and moving around as much as possible. - go into your garden if you have one but keep away from neighbours. 

Spend time with the windows open - try to find a space to sit and get some natural sunlight. 

Spend time with hobbies - read, cook or watch your favourite TV programme. 

Try to eat healthily and try to avoid smoking, alchohol or drugs. 

Try to stay in touch with friends and family over the phone or online and talk to them about how you're  feeling.