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CMO: Old people still isolating from Covid in a state of “loneliness”

According to Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, many old people are still isolating from Covid-19 a year after the majority of restrictions ended, leading to feelings of “loneliness” and “isolation.”

Though most of Ireland’s lockdown restrictions began to wind down at the end of February last year, Chief Medical Officer Breda Smyth has said that many older people are still “apprehensive” and “anxious” about going outside to this day.

The remarks were made in an open letter by the CMO this week, addressed to “older people in Ireland.”

She said that the lockdown had “far-reaching consequences for us all,” adding that a “burden” had been placed on people who “stopped doing many of the things that bring joy to our lives. “

“Many older people, having been asked in the early stages of the pandemic to stay at home
and cocoon, found the pandemic particularly isolating,” she said.

“Your compliance with public health restrictions played a significant role in Ireland’s successful response to the pandemic.”

However, she explained, this did not come without cost, leading in many cases to missed “precious” life moments.

“In doing as you were asked, you will have missed out on family moments, or precious time
with friends and neighbours doing the things you always enjoyed,” she wrote.

“No one should underestimate the impact of this isolation or the sense of loneliness that comes from the sudden disconnect from family and community.”

She went on to say that there was a “strong link” between loneliness and “chronic health conditions,” including heart and lung disease, stroke, and disorders such as obesity.

“It’s also linked to poorer mental health,” she said, adding: “It’s important that we rebuild the connections that may have been lost during the pandemic.”

“We know that many people still feel apprehensive about getting out and about. So, I would
like to offer my reassurance that today we are – thankfully – in a much better place.

“We have access to safe, effective vaccines. We know these vaccines save lives and help protect us from the worst effects of COVID-19. Your vaccinations offer a high level of protection, so you can feel safe while engaging with others. We also have effective antiviral treatment.”

“The pandemic has taught us to embrace stronger personal protective behaviours like hand -cleaning and practising good respiratory etiquette. With measures like these, we are learning to live with COVID-19.”

She said that “we cannot allow [Covid] to steal more years from us,” and urged older people to return to social activities.

The CMO’s letter is a part of the “Hello Again World” campaign, launched this week by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Its purpose is to urge older people to re-enter society post-lockdown.

“Reconnecting with others is so important for overall health and wellbeing,” said Donnelly.

“I know that older people, in particular, paid a high price during the pandemic as they were the first group that were asked to cocoon. Understandably, they may feel nervous about re-engaging socially but it’s a very positive step for health as it helps combat loneliness.”










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