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Protect yourself and others from coronavirus

Last updated: 18 May 2020 at 9.15am

To protect yourself and others from coronavirus (COVID-19), think about how the virus is spread.

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. 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.

Stay at home

Everyone should stay at home to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

You should only leave your home to:

  • travel to work if your workplace is open and you cannot work from home - be sure to practice social distancing
  • shop for essential food and household goods
  • exercise outdoors - within 5 kilometres (km) of your home - keeping 2 metres between you and other people
  • attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products
  • care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits
  • carry out farming, such as food production or the care of animals
  • visit a very sick relative in care - compassionate visits will be decided on a case-by-case basis
  • meet friends or family within 5 km, in groups of no more than 4 people while keeping at least 2 metres apart

You can leave home to:

  • take part in sport in groups of 4 people, within 5 km from your home, as long as you can avoid contact and keep at least 2 metres apart - examples include tennis or golf
  • visit outdoor spaces and tourism sites, within 5 km from your home, where you can keep at least 2 metres apart from other people

Do not ignore or delay seeking medical treatment for abnormal signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing. Get medical help if you need it.

Social distancing

Social distancing is important to help slow the spread of coronavirus. It does this by minimising contact between potentially infected individuals and healthy individuals.

You should:

  • keep a space of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and other people
  • avoid communal sleeping areas
  • avoid any crowded places
  • not shake hands or make close contact with other people, if possible

There is very little risk if you are just passing someone. But try to keep a distance of 2 metres as much as possible.

Social distancing at work

Follow social distancing advice everywhere outside the home. This includes your workplace.

If you are going back to your workplace, read information about returning to work safely.

Contact the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) by emailing or phoning 1890 289 389 if you are:

  • worried about how your workplace is responding to social distancing or other measures
  • an employer and want advice on coronavirus prevention measures in the workplace

There is separate advice about:

Good hygiene and hand washing

Good hygiene and washing your hands properly and often will help to stop the spread of coronavirus. Follow this advice as strictly as possible and encourage others to do this too.


Wash your hands properly and often.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze.

Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Do not share objects that touch your mouth – for example, bottles, cups.

When you should wash your hands

You should wash your hands:

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • before and after eating
  • before and after preparing food
  • if you were in contact with someone who has a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing)
  • before and after being on public transport, if you must use it
  • before and after being in a crowd (especially an indoor crowd)
  • when you arrive and leave buildings including your home or anyone else's home
  • if you have handled animals or animal waste
  • before having a cigarette or vaping
  • if your hands are dirty
  • after toilet use

Keep your hands in good condition. Moisturise them often. Any basic product that is not perfumed or coloured is OK.

Read advice on how to wash your hands properly.

Compassionate visits

You may be able to visit a very sick relative if they are in a:

  • hospital
  • nursing home
  • hospice
  • residential care setting

Talk to the healthcare staff caring for them. They will decide if it is safe for you to visit.

If you can visit

If you are allowed to visit:

  • follow any instructions you are given by healthcare staff
  • wash your hands properly before entering and leaving
  • follow social distancing rules when you visit - respect other patients, visitors and staff

If you cannot visit

It can be distressing if you can't visit your loved one. These restrictions are only in place to keep you, your loved one and healthcare staff safe. They will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.

Read about minding your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read about hospital service disruptions and visiting restrictions.

Related topics

How coronavirus is spread

Shopping safely during the coronavirus pandemic

Symptoms of coronavirus