Scouting Ireland is preparing for its adult volunteers to assist in the State's plan to "cocoon" elderly and vulnerable people in their homes to protect them from the coronavirus in the coming weeks.
The youth organisation has more than 50,000 members, including 12,000 adult volunteers.
It plans to assist in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak following a request from the Government, the chair of the organisation's board Adrian Tennant said on Monday.
Mr Tennant said a task force was being set up between key elected volunteers, staff and board members, to plan how the organisation can help during the coronavirus outbreak.
It is envisaged adult leaders and older “rover scout” members, who are between 18 and 25 years of age, would be asked to assist in supporting vulnerable members of their communities during the public health crisis.
The plan is “when the cocooning phase comes in that we are ready to assist the State agencies in what way we can”, said Mr Tennant.
This could include bringing food supplies and shopping to the elderly and vulnerable, collecting medical prescriptions, or making regular phone calls to check in on individuals, he said.
In a televised address last week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the country would attempt to “cocoon” those most at risk from the virus by having them remain in their homes in the coming weeks, where they would be supplied with essentials.
Mr Tennant said juvenile members would also be asked to help from their homes, for example by corresponding with nursing home residents.
“We have seen call outs from nursing homes, where family members can no longer visit residents, or people may not have anyone to visit them,” he said.
Mr Tennant said the “hands on stuff” would not be undertaken by Scouting Ireland members under 18 years of age. “Our main priority is the safety of our members and their families . . . In terms of safeguarding, we won’t be putting our young people in harm’s way,” he said.
The organisation plans to begin volunteering efforts to assist elderly and vulnerable people locally, to be in a position to ramp up its operation in the event that the Government enacted its “cocooning phase”, he said.
The youth organisation has cancelled all local scout meetings and events until at least the end of the month, following the two-week closure of schools, colleges and other institutions. And it has also postponed large camping trips and several national events which were due to take place in April.