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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 3 June, 2020
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Over-70s must stay at home even if they are fit and active, says government official

There are currently over 460,000 people aged over 70 in the country.

Liz Canavan says older people must stay at home.
Liz Canavan says older people must stay at home.

OVER-70s MUST stay at home even if they are fit and active, the Assistant Secretary-General at the Department of the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking at a Government briefing in Dublin today, Liz Canavan said those over 70 must cocoon. 

“We know many people over 70 are fit, well and active. Nevertheless, the chief medical officer’s advice is that you should stay at home. We appreciate how frustrating this is but the reason the CMO has made that recommendation is based on what we know about the impact of the disease.”

Yesterday, the government warned that some people aged over 70 were not following advice on cocooning. 

People over 70, who are among the groups most at risk from Covid-19, have been asked to cocoon - to stay at home at all times and avoiding face-to-face contact in a bid to prevent them contracting the virus.

The government said it understood that many people aged over 70 “are attending post offices to collect their pension and pay utility bills”.

There are currently over 460,000 people aged over 70 in the country who receive a pension. 

A new initiative has been announced that allows the elderly to nominate an agent to collect their pension which is now paid fortnightly. 

The payment will remain valid for collections in the post office for 90 days after the date of issue, and therefore a number of payments may be collected at the same time. 

The government also announced that it is extending the fuel allowance season by another four weeks – from 10 April to 8 May. 

The HSE guidelines state that those cocooning must not go outside their home and garden and must not have visitors to their home, except for essential carers.

Those cocooning must also not attend gatherings, including those with family and friends if they don’t live together.

Health Minister Simon Harris has stated previously that the gardaí will ask older people to return home if they venture outside

Helpline numbers 

Local authorities have launched community response helplines that the vulnerable and elderly can call if they need any help with getting medications, shopping or any other aid during the crisis. The list of numbers for each county council can be found here

In addition to warning the over-70s to stay inside, Canavan appealed to landlords of tenants living in informal accommodation to show “allegiance” and not evict them.

A temporary ban on evictions and a pause on rent increases for three months was legislated for last week. However, it has become apparent that the rent-a-room scheme and student digs are exempt from the ban.

“We’re looking into this further and I will update you when I have more information on that,” said Canavan today, who asked landlords to avoid ending their current accommodation arrangements with renters. 

Other issues were also raised at today’s briefing, including concerns about the global problem of securing tests for Covid-19.

“This week the HSE public analysis laboratory at Cherry Orchard and the Department of Agriculture have also come online, bringing additional capacity into the laboratory space.

“The HSE has asked us to apologise to all those waiting for test results to assure the public, they’re making every endeavour to improve turnaround times with the current international constraints.

“Testing is being performed for public health as opposed to clinical reasons and patients waiting for results should continue to self-isolate for 14 days,” she said. 

Custody issues 

The media were also briefed on concerns in relation to custody agreements between parents.

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“Covid-19 cannot be used as an excuse to ignore a court order and all parties should keep to any order in place. We are also conscious that there might be some issues or concerns about travelling for visits,” she said. 

The President of the District Court last week clarified that parents could come to arrangements for alternative contact which could involve phone calls, or Skype during the crisis. 

The government also announced that a database is being established, whereby anybody, group or organisation, including those outside the commercial area, that have a service or goods can get in touch if they feel it could be of use in these unprecedented times.

“All offers are helpful and while not everyone can be matched with a suitable need we are nevertheless grateful for every one and encouraged by the great willingness and enthusiasm out there to lend a hand in this time of crisis,” said Canavan. 

Young peoples’ mental health was also touched upon in the press conference today, with the announcement that a new podcast to help young people cope with anxiety is being launched during the Covid-19 emergency.

“Understandably, the risks and reality of the global pandemic have probably been at the forefront of everyone’s mind. For that reason, it’s particularly important to take the necessary steps to look out for our mental health at this time.

New podcast for kids

“We’re very conscious that parents, children, young people may be anxious about the disease and about the disruption to their own routine, even school and all the other activities, they’d like to be involved in. No age group is immune to the stress caused by this crisis,” she said. 

The new podcast has been created with the help of hte National Education Psychology Service (NEPS) which offers a series of relaxation techniques, specifically designed to help young people cope with that anxiety. The podcast is available via SoundCloud.”

She concluded by stating that as today is April Fools’ Day people should only heed messages and advice from official sources.

“Remember, if it is true, you’ll hear it here,” she said.

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