Visitors will be permitted in nursing homes for the first time since March from today

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The group Sage Advocacy said people are “counting down the minutes to see their loved ones again”.

FOR THE FIRST time since March, people will be permitted to visit loved ones in nursing homes from today.

There are, however, strict protocols in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in such residential settings which have been severely affected during the pandemic. 

The move to allow visitors to nursing homes again had originally been earmarked for the beginning of Phase Three on 29 June, but chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said it was felt the “conditions are right for us to bring that forward”.

At a press conference earlier this month, Dr Holohan said that the National Public Health Emergency Team had been “sensitive” to the isolation experienced by residents and the pain experienced by their families in recent months. 

Guidance, published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, states that all visits to nursing homes – many of which are privately operated – are “at the discretion” of management and “it is their responsibility to ensure that visitations do not compromise overall resident care or adherence to requisite infection control procedures”. 

“Restrictions to visiting are aimed at protecting residents, staff and visitors from exposure to Covid-19,” the guidance states. 

The guidance includes recommendations that each resident has a maximum of two named visitors, with only one visitor allowed to be present at any one time. 

People have been advised to ring ahead before they visit a nursing home and to wear a face covering and gloves and visits should not last more than half an hour.

“Visitors should declare that they have no symptoms [of Covid-19]and undergo a temperature check before being permitted to enter,” the guidance also notes. 

Sage Advocacy which campaigns for vulnerable people and patients said people are “counting down the minutes to see their loved ones again”.

Executive director of Sage Advocacy Mervyn Taylor said many families had suffered heartbreak and loss during the pandemic.

He said: “We also recognise how difficult it has been for nursing staff, carers and all workers in care homes and residential care facilities.

We need to learn important lessons from the impact of Covid-19 and acknowledge that it is time to integrate private nursing homes into the wider framework of health and social care and ensure that there are clear responsibilities for clinical and infection control oversight of all congregated care facilities for older people.

As of midnight on 12 June, there have been 252 clusters of Covid-19 reported in nursing homes. Deaths in residential care facilities have accounted for over half of the overall death toll from Covid-19 in Ireland, with questions being asked over the government’s initial actions in preventing the spread of the virus in such settings. 

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With reporting from Dominic McGrath, PA

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