Covid-19 restrictions on nursing homes are to be significantly relaxed from Monday, with family members being allowed visit even if residents are infected.
Under the new guidelines, a "nominated support person" will be allowed access to a resident, even if the resident has Covid-19", as long as they are made aware of the risks involved, the Department of Health said on Friday evening.
Recreational and social activities for residents should not be limited, except for residents who are infectious, it said. When an outbreak occurs in a nursing home, the suspension of new admissions should only last for a maximum of ten days after the last case is detected.
“This means that a nursing home may not need to wait for the outbreak to be declared over before it can reopen to new admissions,” the Department said.
Additionally, residents who get the virus will only have to isolate for 10 days, as long as they are vaccinated.
Minister for Older People, Mary Butler said the measures will encourage nursing homes "to resume social and recreational activities within the nursing home for residents, which will give people greater opportunity for social connectedness".
She said: there remains a need “for all nursing home stakeholders to continue to be vigilant and apply the required infection prevention and control precautions.”
The new guidelines, available in full here, come into force from Monday.
Social activities for new residents may still be restricted under infection control measures but restrictions should be limited to seven days. The Department said residents “do not need to stay in their room all of the time. If they want to go for a walk down the hall at a quiet time or go outside that is very little risk to anyone.”
Residents admitted to hospital from a nursing home may now be discharged back to the same nursing home, even if that home is experiencing an outbreak. This is dependent on the home taking measures to protect the resident from infection and having capacity to care for them.
Nominated support persons should have unrestricted access to residents for most of the day, or at least from mid-morning to late afternoon. “This will further support the mental health and wellbeing and social connection for residents,” the Department said.