Government statements advising Over 70s to “cocoon” for their own safety have been clarified because of confusion they caused and after complaints from the public and from charities working with elderly people about the confusion and upset they had created.
The HSE and Department of Health this week confirmed that “cocooning” is advisory and not mandatory.
The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020, passed by Government contains provisions to fine or imprison those who do not obey an order from a Garda to return home, if that Garda believes the person is making an unnecessary journey outside a two kilometre zone from their home. However there is no provision in that Act to sanction Over 70s who leave their homes.
The HSE has “strongly advised” those in what it describes as the “at risk category”, that is to say those over 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions, to stay at home and not to leave home in any circumstances. They urge those ‘cocooning’ to get their shopping delivered and to arrange for medications to be left outside their door. The initial HSE statements caused many people to believe that it was illegal to go out if they were over 70 but this is not so.
We hope the government’s recent clarification will ease the distress and confusion that many people felt when the guidelines were first communicated. At the same time we encourage everyone in our community to follow the advice of our public health authorities in order to keep themselves and everyone else safe. By all playing our part, together we can fight the spread of the virus and save lives.