COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Health advice

Published: 26 April 2020
From: Department of Health

Until Tuesday 5 May, everyone should stay at home wherever possible.


It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to show. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.

Common symptoms include:

If you’re confused about the differences between symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the cold and flu, the HSE has more information.

If you have symptoms

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19 (Coronavirus), they will arrange a test.

Protect yourself

General advice

To protect yourself:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
  • practice good respiratory hygiene, that is, when coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • maintain physical distancing, that is, leave at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself

The most important action we can take to protect ourselves from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.

Read a step-by-step guide from the HSE on how to clean your hands.

People over the age of the 70 or extremely medically vulnerable

The government is urging people over the age of 70 or who have underlying medical conditions to cocoon.

Cocooning means protecting people:

  • over 70 years of age
  • who are extremely medically vulnerable
  • living in residential care homes or long-term care

The symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can be harder to notice for people who have underlying health issues.

If you’re in one of these groups, you must take extra care to reduce interaction with other people. Don’t go outside your home and garden.

Learn more about cocooning.

What you can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

If you do not have symptoms

Everyone in Ireland has been asked to stay at home.

But you need to restrict your movements further if you:

You need to restrict your movements for at least 14 days. But if the person you live with has had a test and it’s negative, you don’t need to wait 14 days. You should still follow the advice for everyone – stay at home as much as possible.

If you think you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Visit if you think you have been:

  • in contact with someone confirmed as having COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  • to a healthcare facility in another country where COVID-19 (Coronavirus) patients are being treated

You will be put in contact with your local Department of Public Health staff who will give you information and advice.

If you develop symptoms avoid contact with people by self-isolating and phone your GP or emergency department.

You can access the Interpreting Service for Deaf People here.

How COVID-19 (Coronavirus) spreads

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. The advice to stay at home means you have less chance of catching it or passing it on to others if you do happen to have COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and bring your unwashed hands to your face (eyes, nose or mouth)

As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person or how long the virus stays on surfaces. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

The virus may survive for up to 2 days if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

Close contact does not include someone you passed on the street or in a shop. The risk of contact in that instance is very low.

More information on how COVID-19 (Coronavirus) spreads is available from the HSE.

Keeping well during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic

Infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. However, there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.

You can see a lot more supports and help here.