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Q&A: Local authorities to co-ordinate delivery of food to vulnerable 'cocooning' at home


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Stock Image/GETTY

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People over 70 years of age and those who are extremely medically vulnerable due to a health condition must "cocoon" for the next two weeks - meaning they must not leave their homes.

This is the recommendation from the experts advising the Government on tackling the coronavirus in light of the evidence that both groups are susceptible to the infection and at higher risk of severe complications.

Q: Does the instruction not to leave the house at all over the next two weeks apply even to fit older people?

A: Yes - the public health doctors say there should be no exceptions. It is just for two weeks and it could save their lives.

Q: What level of contact are they allowed?

A: They should avoid any face-to-face contact for the two weeks. Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, personal support with their daily needs or social care should continue, but carers and care workers must stay away if they've any of the symptoms of Covid-19.

Q: This is quite strict and has practical implications. For example, how will people get their food shopping?

A: Family, friends and neighbours should row in to do practical tasks like leaving shopping at the front door. But this may not be available to all cocooning people, and they may be too independently minded to ask. A major countrywide support network is promised, which will be overseen by the local councils.

They will coordinate various agencies and voluntary groups and arrange for the supply of food, medicines and essential household supplies. More details are due today.

Q: So does the housebound person who is cocooning wait for a call?

A: One way of alerting authorities to a person's needs is to contact their local Garda station and leave details.

Gardaí will arrange for the delivery of food and prescriptions and may alert other organisations involved in providing the services.

Q: Is there a helpline people can ring for information?

A: Alone operates a helpline from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, at 0818222024. You can also contact the HSE helpline at 1850 24 18 50. Chief executive of Alone Sean Moynihan said a concerted effort would be made to tie all of the agencies together. Supports for older people may be needed more in cities because the same network of neighbours may not be available.

Q: Will postmen and women also be involved?

A: Yes, An Post said postmen and women would make contact with people during their rounds who they believe may need extra supports during the two weeks.

Q: What are the guidelines for other people in the household who may not fall into vulnerable category?

A: If there is someone else living with the person who is cocooning, they are not required to adopt the same measures.

But they should stringently follow guidance on physical distancing, keeping a distance of two metres and reduce 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.

The person who is cocooning should stay away from other people in the home most of the time in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened. If they have to go into the same room with other people at home, they should try to keep at least one metre - and where possible two metres -away from them.

Q: What if the person cocooning needs to attend a medical appointment?

A: The advice is that everyone should try to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if the person cocooning has an appointment, they should talk to their GP.

Dr Padraig McGarry, of the Irish Medical Organisation, said he was concerned that patients with serious ailments, which are not coronavirus-related, were ignoring symptoms and may be avoiding visits to GP surgeries.

He asked people who were worried to phone their GP surgery first, rather than visit, and the doctor would then advise on the next steps.

Irish Independent


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