Cocooning Q&A: How does it work? Who must do it?

The fight against coronavirus includes rigorous new ways of living our lives

Tony McGrath (76) ‘cocooning’ at his home in Drumcondra, Dublin. Cocooning is now required for everyone over the age of 70 as a measure to limit the spread of Covid-19. Photograph: © Fran Veale

Tony McGrath (76) ‘cocooning’ at his home in Drumcondra, Dublin. Cocooning is now required for everyone over the age of 70 as a measure to limit the spread of Covid-19. Photograph: © Fran Veale


As part of the latest emergency measures in the fight against Covid-19 the Government has introduced “cocooning” to help protect the most vulnerable in society.

What is cocooning?

According to a document released by the HSE, cocooning is a measure to protect people who are over 70 years of age or those who are extremely medically vulnerable by minimising all interaction between them and others.

How does it work?

Essentially, people in these two categories should not leave their homes at all, even if they feel fit and well. Individuals who are advised to cocoon should not go to the shops, leave home or garden, or attend any gatherings.

People should also avoid all non-essential face-to-face interaction and instead stay connected to friends and family through the phone or internet.

Who does this apply to?

The Government has released a list of people who should strictly adhere to the cocooning practices. They include people who are 70 years or older, solid organ transplant recipients and people with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Other “medically vulnerable” categories include people with specific cancers, individuals with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections, people on immunosuppression therapies and women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

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How will I get food and medicine?

The HSE has said that family, friends and neighbours can support you once you adhere to cocooning guidelines and they adhere to physical distancing guidelines. They also advise that individuals use online services where possible.

Assistance is also being made available through the local authorities, working with voluntary sector services, to ensure you can have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines. Each local authority will publish contact details for this service.

How long are these new rules in place?

The new measures and restrictions are in place until Easter. However, the HSE said this period is being kept under review.

Can people still visit my home?

Visits from people who provide essential support to you such as healthcare, personal support with your daily needs or social care should continue, the Government has said.

However, carers and care workers must stay away if they have any symptoms of Covid-19.

The Government advice also states that regular visitors should not attend your home unless they are providing essential care such as help with washing, dressing or feeding.

All people entering your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house, as well as other times throughout the visit, and should adhere to the physical distancing guidelines.

I live with other people who are not 70 or medically vulnerable. Do they have to cocoon too?

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these measures themselves.

They should do what they can to support you in cocooning by following guidance on physical distancing and reducing their contact outside the home.

They should also wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, especially upon arrival home and observe good respiratory etiquette at all times.