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Protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Last updated: 29 October 2020 at 3.50pm

COVID- 19 (coronavirus) is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.

To infect you, the virus has to get from an infected person's nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can happen if someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes near you. Or if you touch something they have been in contact with, such as an object or a surface.

It is important that you:

  • wash your hands properly and often
  • practice social distancing
  • cover coughs and sneezes

Follow the advice on this page as strictly as possible and encourage others to do this too.

People at higher risk from COVID-19

COVID-19 can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, the risk is higher. People at higher risk from COVID-19 should take extra care to protect themselves.

Read advice for people at very high risk of COVID-19.

Wash your hands

Washing your hands properly and often will help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Use soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser to clean your hands:

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • 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
  • before having a cigarette or vaping
  • even if your hands are not visibly 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 about how to wash your hand properly.

Face coverings

Wear a face covering on public transport, in shops and other indoor settings. This is the law. You may be fined or refused entry if you do not wear one.

Read more about face coverings, medical masks and disposable gloves.

Sneezing and coughs

When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve. Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands.

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

Sharing things

Do not share objects that touch your mouth, for example, bottles or cups. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Social distancing

Social distancing is important to help slow the spread of coronavirus. It does this by minimising contact between people.

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.

When you can't keep 2 metres apart

Try to avoid places where you cannot keep 2 metres apart from other people. If you are in a public place where it is difficult to keep 2 metres away from others, wear a face covering.

Meeting other people

There are restrictions on the number of people you can meet in your home and outside your home.

Read about the current restrictions on

Support bubbles

To help people who live on their own, a 'support bubble' will apply during level 5 restrictions. This means that people who are living alone or parenting alone can pair with one other household.

You can visit the home of those in your support bubble and they can visit your home. You can also meet outdoors and in places other than the home.

Read more about support bubbles on

Staying safe if you meet people

Your risk of getting coronavirus increases as you meet with more people.

In both indoor and outdoor settings, keep 2 metres apart from people you do not live with.

It’s always safer to meet fewer people, less often, for less time. If we do this, we have a better chance of stopping the spread of coronavirus.

If you can have visitors to your home

If the current restrictions allow you to have visitors, ask them to clean their hands when they arrive. After they leave, clean surfaces they have been in contact with. Use your usual household cleaning agents and detergents.

Do not wear disposable gloves instead of washing your hands. The virus gets on them in the same way it gets on your hands. Also, your hands can get contaminated when you take them off.

Wear a face covering when visiting people aged 70 or over, or other people at higher risk from coronavirus.

When not to meet other people

You should not meet someone else if you:

Check with people before you meet them to make sure they are symptom-free and feeling well.

Read advice for people who are cocooning.


Avoid using public transport. Walk or cycle instead of using public transport, if you can.

Read the current restrictions for using public transport and domestic travel.

Avoid sharing vehicles with people outside your household. Wear a face covering if you do.


Work from home, if possible.

Read more about the current restrictions for work.

Social distancing at work

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

Get advice

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

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

Use the COVID Tracker app

COVID Tracker is a free and easy-to-use mobile phone app that can:

  • alert you if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • advise you on what to do to protect yourself and others
  • alert other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for COVID-19

The app is part of our contact tracing operation. Contact tracing is vital to slowing the spread of the virus. The more people that download and use the app, the more it will help contact tracing.

Why you should use the COVID Tracker app.

Download the app from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

Related topics

How coronavirus is spread.

Shopping safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Levels of restrictions and plan for living with COVID-19 on

Travel advice from the Government

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app