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Harris doesn't like the word 'cocooning', but he says it's being done to keep those over 70 safe and well

The minister said common sense will prevail if someone over 70 works in an essential service.

Image: Shutterstock/Lolostock

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said he doesn’t really like the phrase ‘cocooning’ but said the idea is to keep those aged 70 and over safe and well. 

Speaking to reporters in Dublin today, he said that older people who leave their homes could be asked by the gardaí to return back home. 

As part of further restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that ‘cocooning’ will be introduced for those over 70 and people who are extremely vulnerable to the disease. 

Cocooning is intended for use in situations where an extremely medically vulnerable person is living in their own home, with or without additional support or in long-term residential facilities.

Essentially, staying at home at all times and avoiding face-to-face contact for two weeks from today. 

Here is a guide to what it involves.

When TheJournal.ie put the case to the minister of someone over 70 disobeying the rules and venturing out, he said: 

Any one of us who leave our home during this period of time can reasonably expect that the law of the land will allow a garda to ask where we are heading off to.

He said these sort of things “don’t sit easy with us… I get that,” he said. 

Harris added that gardaí will use their discretion. 

“They will talk to the person about the public health advice and to ask the person if they are not complying with it, to comply,” he said. 

Harris told reporters today that cocooning means wrapping supports around those aged 70 and over to protect them in their home.

“I would ask people to see it as a supportive term,” he said. 

While every person is being asked to stay at home except in very limited circumstances, those aged 70 are asked to stay at home “all of the time”, explained Harris.  

While others are able to go out and buy groceries, “we are asking them not to do that”.

When asked about the those over 70, who are perhaps in jobs that are essential services, such as funeral directors, Harris said ideally those in the age group would be able to stay at home.

However, he acknowledged there may be some cases where these workers are fulfilling vital, essential services at this time. He said “common sense and cop on” should prevail in such circumstances and they should be allowed continue to work.

The minister said the evidence shows that if you are over 70, you are more likely to get the virus and become ill, than if you were a younger person.

Cocooning means staying at home, but it also means that there must be supports there from the authorities to allow that to happen. 

Harris said it is the government’s job to ensure older people can be supported in staying at home. He said local authorities will publish contact details where older people can get in touch about whatever food or medication needs they have throughout the emergency. 

Voluntary organisations, community groups and other government organisations are working to put supports in place for people who are cocooning. 

From Monday, under a new initiative, postmen and postwomen will also be checking in on older people in their communities.  

Harris’ message to older people cocooning is that they should not feel alone, and should reach out and get in touch with the range of services available, should they need them. 

He said the current measures introduced by the government were “as tough as it can get”.  

But he said they were brought in to save lives.  

ALONE is providing a telephone support line seven days a week from 8am to 8pm at 0818222024.  

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