Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has warned that public health officials must balance the benefits of coronavirus restrictions on older people alongside the contribution over-70s make to communities.
Under State guidelines, older people are now permitted to exercise daily but are still expected to avoid other public contact including with family members.
Bishop Doran told The Irish Catholic that he believed that “cocooning has been an essential element of the public health strategy during the pandemic.
“While it has been very difficult for people, I think many people have welcomed the protection it afforded. Usually, however, something comes out of a cocoon,” he said.
Dr Doran said that he is “concerned that, while the ‘roadmap’ envisages some relaxation of the ‘cocoon’, it doesn’t hold out any hope of a return to some kind of active life for the thousands of people who are currently ‘under protection’.
“The cocoon isolates everybody over 70 years of age. Many of these people have a huge contribution to make to the extended family and to the communities in which they live,” he said.
Bishop Doran pointed out that “they are 30% of the priests in active ministry in our parishes”.
Underlining the need for continued caution and vigilance, Dr Doran said “we certainly have to be responsible about public health, but there is no life without some level of risk.
“The benefit of the cocoon must be constantly weighed against the enormous impact on individual people and on society of placing an entire generation indefinitely ‘on the shelf’,” he said.
Bishop Doran (67) is amongst the majority of bishops who are not required to cocoon. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop Michael Neary, Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop Brendan Kelly, Bishop Donal McKeown and Bishop John Fleming are all over 70 years of age.