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Explainer: what is cocooning and how can it be implemented?


Stock photo: PA

Stock photo: PA


Explainer: what is cocooning and how can it be implemented? Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Explainer: what is cocooning and how can it be implemented? Photo: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

(Joe Giddens/PA)

(Joe Giddens/PA)


Stock photo: PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday announced almost total lockdown for the country for the next two week period and said that those over 70 and those at high risk of catching the coronavirus should be ‘cocooned’ until April 12.

Last night, the HSE released a document detailing exactly what this means and how to best implement it.

But what is cocooning?

According to the document, cocooning is a measure to protect those over 70 years or those extremely medically vulnerable by minimising interaction between them and others.

Those people “should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.”

This is in an effort to protect them from contracting COVID-19.

Who is “extremely vulnerable” to catching the virus?

According to the HSE, extremely vulnerable includes:

  • Those who are over 70
  • Solid organ transplant recipients,
  • People with specific cancers: those undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer, people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow, people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments, people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system and people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months
  • People who are taking immunosuppressant drugs
  • Those who have with severe respiratory conditions
  • Those who have with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease

“If you are over 70 years of age or have an underlying medical condition listed above, you are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19,” the document states.

“You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of two weeks."

Visits should only continue from people who provide “essential support”, such as healthcare, personal support with daily needs or social care should continue. However, carers and care workers must stay away if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19.

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

An alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell should be drawn up.

If you have someone else living with you, they are not required to adopt these protective cocooning measures for themselves. They should do what they can to support you in cocooning and they should follow guidance on physical distancing, reducing their contact outside the home.

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

There are also face-to-face distancing measures that should be followed within the home for those who are being cocooned.

What exactly does face-to-face distancing mean?

  • avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
  • do not leave your house.
  • do not attend any gatherings, including gatherings of friends and families
  • do not go out for shopping and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  • keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media and keep devices charged
  • use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

What should you do if you are being cocooned but the other people in your house are not?

  • You should stay away from other people in your home most of the time in a well-ventilated room with a window which opens
  • Keep at least 1 metre and where possible 2 metres away from others if you have to go into the same room.
  • Wash your hands regularly and practice good respiratory etiquette.
  • Have exclusive use of a bathroom is possible. If not, set up a rota for bathroom use, with you using it first for bathing.
  • use separate towels from the other people in your house
  • In sharing a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. Take your meals back to your room to eat. Use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them 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 every day with a cleaning product. Detergents and bleach as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus.

What about visitors?

Regular visitors should be contacted and informed that you are cocooning and that they should not visit. Essential visitors only are allowed, those who help with washing, dressing, or feeding.

For informal carers, only essential care should be provided.

This advice also applies to those over 70 years of age or extremely medically vulnerable persons living in long-term care facilities. Care providers should carefully discuss advice with families, carers and specialist doctors.

Online Editors