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Leisure activities outside the home for cocooners will only be advised 'when it's safe to do so'

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Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

THE over-70s and other people who are cocooning will only be advised that they can take part in leisure activities outside the home "when it's safe to do so", Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

Just two of the easing measures in the government's roadmap for reopening Irish society from the coronavirus restrictions relate to people who are cocooning.

They may be advised they can go to shops and have visitors to their homes at some point in June - while maintaining social distancing and wearing gloves and face covering.

But unlike the rest of the population there is no indication of when they could be allowed play a round of golf, go to a swimming pool or engage in other leisure activities.

Mr Harris said this will only happen "when it's safe to do so".

He said the restrictions are in place because it's a "deadly virus" that disproportionately affects older people and those with medical conditional that make them vulnerable.

"This is about saving lives and I think they get that too," he said.

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Mr Harris said that cocooning is not a law and is not enforced by the gardaí.

But he said he'd be failing as health minister "if we had public health advice about the dangers of the virus to this age group and we decided not to share that."

He added that as it stands the advice for everyone regardless of age group is that they should be staying at home for the next two weeks.

Mr Harris said: "as we suppress the virus and keep on suppressing it we need to keep on checking our advice in relation to cocooning and seeing how it can evolve."

He said cocooners will be advised that they can go outside from Tuesday if they don't have contact with other people.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said this means staying two metres away from others, not touching surfaces and washing hands when they return home.

Mr Harris said he hopes phase two of the easing of restriction will allow the over-70s to see children and grandchildren.

He said there's an onus on the younger population to "do everything we possibly can to suppress this virus. "

The more case numbers are reduced, the more scope it allows for monitoring cocooning and how best to do it, he said.

Mr Holohan indicated that the measures relating to cocooning in the roadmap could be expanded.

"We'll give ongoing consideration and new actions and new measures and more specific ones will arise."

He described the restrictions on cocooners as the most "draconian" that have been introduced.

"We'll give ongoing consideration to... these people in vulnerable groups for whom the most difficult measures are continuing.

He said they will be will "at the top of our minds in terms of what we can do to make life as easy as possible for them."


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