Meeting friends during COVID-19
It's exciting to be able to go out and see friends, but we still need to take care
With COVID-19 restrictions in Ireland easing, many people are taking the opportunity to do things they haven’t been able to do since lockdown began. This includes visiting friends and family, going shopping, eating at restaurants, and more.
It’s important to remember that just because these restrictions have eased, the virus hasn’t gone away. That’s why we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and others. If cases of the coronavirus begin to rise again, Ireland could be facing another lockdown. There are things we can all do to prevent this.
Meeting friends during COVID-19
Being able to meet up with friends after so many months apart is a relief for a lot of people, and it's good for our mental health too. However, if we want to avoid a second lockdown, we need to make sure we're taking precautions when meeting people from outside our household.
Here are some ways you can keep safe while spending time with friends:
Avoid house parties and stick to the limits
While it’s exciting to be able to see friends and family again, try your best to limit the amount of people you’re in close contact with. It might be tempting to meet up with a big group of people, but this increases the risk of the virus spreading. The Government has introduced guidelines that limit the amount of people who can gather in one house to 6 people, and those 6 people can be from a max of three different households. Up to 15 people can meet outside. If you are meeting people inside or outside, do your best to keep at least two metres apart.
If you are invited to a house party or you're thinking of going to one, remember the risks involved. There are concerns that the coronavirus has been spreading in house parties that have taken place after some of the COVID-19 restrictions eased. Going to one means you're at an increased risk of catching the virus and spreading it to those you love and other vulnerable people.
Meet outdoors more often
When you are meeting friends, try to meet outdoors where you have room to socially distance. If someone comes to your home without realising that they are infected with the virus, the risk of others getting infected is increased. This is because they are more likely to come into contact with surfaces in your home, and it can be harder to keep your distance in smaller spaces.
Keep your social distance
In order to limit the spread of the virus and prevent a second wave of infections, we need to continue social distancing. This means keeping at least two metres apart when meeting friends and family, as well as giving people space in shops and on streets or in parks. With restrictions easing, you may feel it’s not necessary to keep your distance anymore - but we need to keep doing it to avoid another lockdown.
Stay home and isolate yourself if you have symptoms
If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, do not go out and interact with others. Instead, stay at home, avoid contact with other people in your household, and contact your doctor over the phone (do not go in person to the surgery).
Common symptoms of coronavirus include:
- A fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
- A cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
If you have one or more of these symptoms, but you don’t think you have coronavirus, you still need to isolate yourself and contact your doctor to find out if you can arrange a test. Find out more from the HSE website.
Download the COVID-19 tracker app
The HSE has released a free app to help improve contact tracing for COVID-19. The app will be used to make it easier and faster to track people who may have come into contact with a person who has COVID-19. This will help to reduce the spread of the virus by quickly identifying people who might have been exposed to it, allowing them to arrange testing and self-isolate. Find out more about the app and why you should download it here.
Remember how the virus spreads
Coronavirus is spread through droplets that can be released by coughing, sneezing, or even talking, laughing, or singing. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person's nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can be direct or indirect (on hands, objects, surfaces). Keep this in mind. It will help you remember all the things you need to do to protect yourself and others from the virus.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) to appear, so it is possible to be infected with COVID-19 and not realise it. That’s why taking steps to limit the spread even when you’re feeling well is necessary.
Wash your hands and avoid touching your face
The advice we were given at the beginning of this lockdown remains true today. It's important to follow good hygiene practices to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Steps you should take include:
- Wash your hands properly with soap and regularly
- If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitiser wherever it is available, and wash your hands fully as soon as you can, particularly after being in public places or on public transport
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
- Put used tissues into a bin immediately after use and wash your hands
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid all unnecessary travel to other countries
- Try to avoid touching your eyes nose and mouth
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