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Level-5 restrictions: Adults living alone and parents sharing custody can have ‘social bubbles’

Level 5 restrictions were imposed in Ireland in view of the second wave of COVID-19. Following in the footsteps of New Zealand’s model of success, family-centered COVID controls were introduced in Ireland as well. As part of this, the government has decided to develop a ‘social bubble’ system to ensure that people are not isolated.

Level 5 restrictions allow certain groups to interact with one other nominated household. This includes adults living alone and parents with shared custody arrangements. The government has made it clear that this will allow for social support beyond the provisional exemptions already available.

The government said those interactions could take place indoors, but that nominees should not change during the six-week restriction period.

In a statement, the government confirmed the proposal is to support people at risk of isolation including: single adult households, those who have shared parenting or shared custody arrangements, those who living alone who have mental health challenges and those living with a partner with certain conditions such as dementia.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that social isolation and anxiety are understood to be difficult for many people, especially those living alone. “Therefore, we are including, as part of the ‘own household’ provisions, the concept of a ‘support bubble”.

“This will allow persons living alone, parenting alone or similarly at risk of social isolation to pair with one other household as part of a ‘support bubble,” the Taoiseach added.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the social bubble system was designed for one-adult households. But, he added that there is an exception for adults who are caring for partners who have dementia.

The government has said that more than one bubble or a network of bubbles is not allowed. For example, each of the three adults living in a house-share cannot create an individual bubble with another house. In this case, the government made it clear that all three adults would be treated as one unit and limited to the formation of a bubble with another household.

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