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Tony Holohan: Cocooners can meet socially-distanced groups of four from Monday

Holohan stressed that public health advice still recommends people in cocooning categories stay at home if not exercising.

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CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has said it would be appropriate for people in cocooning categories to meet small socially-distanced groups outdoors from Monday. 

Holohan’s comments come ahead of the easing of some Covid-19 restrictions on Monday which allows up to four people who do not live in the same household to meet up outdoors, as long as they maintain a two-metre distance.

The government’s guidelines for those who are cocooning in Phase One advises them to continue to follow the public health advice by avoiding physical contact with other people and staying at home as much as possible, except going out for exercise or a drive up to 5 km. 

Speaking at tonight’s Department of Health briefing, the chief medical officer said while the virus will continue to represent a significant challenge for those in cocooning categories it would be appropriate to partake in outdoor activities, “so long as they keep up the public messages that we are we are issuing”. 

“If you’re meeting and maintaining social distancing for very short periods of time, with numbers less than four people, I think that’s appropriate for somebody who’s in a cocooning category,” Holohan said. 

“But starting to recommend people go back into retail environments, we would still be advising against that for people who are cocooned.”

Holohan stressed that public health advice still recommends that people in cocooning categories stay at home, particularly for those in the medically vulnerable groups.

“It may well be that if you have a very specific condition, it’s the advice of your doctor which is important with respect to that,” Holohan said. 

“So some people with, who are on certain medications and are certain underlying conditions. It’s always the advice of individual doctors that they should seek in respect of their own activities.

It has been framed sometimes as ‘what we are allowing people to do’, this isn’t how we see it. This is public health advice that we’re giving to people. Advice to them that they can internalise, that they can take on board and understand, that’s about how they protect themselves as individuals and protect their families and communities. 

The Department of Health said the risk of transmission of Covid-19 can possibly increase as social interactions increase, which is why behaviours such as washing hands, social distancing and wearing face coverings “become even more important”.

Holohan added that if there is a change in the pattern of the disease, “we will respond to any of the indicators that will follow to address that”.

“These past weeks have been particularly difficult for those who have been cocooning from family, friends and society,” said Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, Consultant Psychiatrist and HSE Integrated Care Lead. 

Today, I hope new measures will bring some relief to this group and that they know we as a society are supporting them wherever possible, including by adopting safe behaviours in physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. 

Since the government’s stay-at-home order was issued on 27 March, people aged over 70 and medically vulnerable people have been asked to stay at home at all times and avoiding face-to-face contact in a bid to prevent them contracting the virus.

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Restrictions were eased on 5 May, allowing them cocooners to leave their homes for a walk or drive within 5km of their homes if they maintain distance from other people.

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Adam Daly

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