Update for Irish Cancer Society volunteers on coronavirus
Last Reviewed: 17 July
Volunteers perform a number of vital functions that support cancer patients both directly and indirectly, and their dedication and commitment is always most appreciated. Ways in which people can protect themselves and others from coronavirus (Covid-19) infection while volunteering include:
- Wear face coverings and leave some distance between yourself and other people, particularly where it is necessary to be outside the home and with anyone who is coughing, sneezing or who has a fever. Avoid unnecessary close contact including handshakes.
- Regular and thorough hand washing with common soap and warm water and use of alcohol-based hand washes, especially:
- when in contact with other people
- before eating or touching your face
- after using the bathroom
- upon entering the home
- Those around a cancer patient should practice good respiratory hygiene by:
- covering your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing
- discarding used tissues immediately into a closed bin, and cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands as this can transfer the virus from surfaces.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Cancer patients themselves are very aware of the need to follow these steps to minimise the possibility of passing on infections given this group is particularly susceptible to illness, and receive regular instruction on this at their clinics.
Changes to volunteer services
The Irish Cancer Society relies on volunteers to carry out a range of functions, from helping at Daffodil Centres, supporting survivors and driving patients to appointments, to fundraising and volunteering in Irish Cancer Society shops and warehouses.
As a result of the infection prevention controls now in place at many hospitals nationwide, hospital-based Daffodil Centre volunteers have been requested not to attend for their shifts until further notice.
Volunteer Drivers taking cancer patients to hospital appointments cannot enter hospital buildings with patients at this time in line with restrictions on all visitors. Patients requiring transport to appointments have temporarily been requested not to bring companions as a further measure to aid infection prevention.
All Irish Cancer Society shops are now closed until further notice, and no church gate collections are currently taking place.
The Irish Cancer Society has received confirmation from the National Cancer Control Programme that our Volunteer Drivers can continue to transport patients for their chemotherapy appointments, including beyond the two-kilometre restriction for non-essential work and travel
Volunteer Drivers should continue to strictly observe general precautions around coronavirus, along with advice on cocooning for people over 70 years of age and those who are extremely medically vulnerable. More information on cocooning and groups defined as being extremely medically vulnerable can be accessed by clicking here.
Due to the close confines of car travel, in order to maximise protection for cancer patients whose immune systems are vulnerable it is recommended that any Volunteer Drivers displaying any symptoms or illness, or who have recently travelled internationally should also temporarily remove themselves from the roster for a period of 14 days after returning.
As with any member of the population, volunteers who are in contact with cancer patients are not considered to be at a heightened risk of infection unless they have been in contact with anyone of the following description:
Anyone who has recently travelled internationally or who has been in close contact with a person diagnosed or suspected of having coronavirus or is showing symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever)
Volunteers who are showing symptoms of illness associated with coronavirus should:
- isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone. Anyone else in the same household should restrict their outside movements.
- phone their GP who can organise for a coronavirus test if needed
- In a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999
Close contact means either:
- Face-to-face contact
- Spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person
- Living in the same house as an infected person
Presenting at emergency departments is NOT recommended due to the high likelihood of coming into contact with other infections in such areas, as well as the possibility of an infection being transmitted to other people who are unwell or medical staff.
The Irish Cancer Society is continuing to monitor the situation as it develops, and will keep volunteers informed of any further steps to be taken that may affect them.
You can still help
Now more than ever those affected by cancer who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus need help from the wider community.
A kind act like helping with shopping or calling someone who is isolating for a chat can make a big difference.
Please remember to always wash hands and take the necessary precautions whenever you are dealing with someone in a vulnerable group, and avoid entering their home except where absolutely necessary.
Information on coronavirus for volunteers can be found at the following webpages:
- HSE - Volunteers who work with cancer patients
- National Cancer Control Programme brochure: Additional advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for cancer patients currently on treatment
Information on health, education and employment is available on the Citizens Information website: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/covid19_overview.html#l97a70
For details on global travel information please see https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus/ or download the Department’s Travelwise app https://www.dfa.ie/travelwise/.
Further useful information sources
For more information
1800 200 700