Healthcare workers in nursing homes advised to wear respirator masks – HSE

New guidelines from January 17th say healthcare workers should wear FFP2 mask

Healthcare workers caring for residents of nursing homes and other care centres have been advised to wear respirator masks, under new advice from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

New guidelines to take effect from January 17th say healthcare workers should wear a respirator mask such as an FFP2 mask, rather than a disposable surgical mask for all resident care activity.

They can wear surgical masks when interacting with colleagues in settings other than caring for residents, according to the advice from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Hospital Report

This move comes on the back National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) raising the prospect of greater use of higher-grade respirator masks which may better protect people at higher risk from Covid-19.

Nphet advised that people can choose to wear FFP3 and the slightly lower-grade FFP2 respirator or medical masks instead of cloth masks if they wish, but stopped short of recommending the higher-grade masks to the public instead of cloth ones.

The advice comes after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly asked State chief medical officer Tony Holohan over Christmas whether these masks should be preferred over the cloth variety because of surging Omicron infections.

Revisit

He asked Dr Holohan to revisit the decision of the State’s health service watchdog Hiqa just before Christmas not to recommend higher-grade masks for vulnerable groups.

The State’s use of the higher-grade masks lags other countries such as Germany, Austria and Italy that have introduced the use of FFP2 or equivalent masks in public spaces.

Residents who contract Covid and are fully vaccinated, including a booster, will have to self-isolate for 10 days, down from 14 days, under a separate changed recommended by the HPSC.

The self-isolation period for vaccinated members of the general public was reduced from 14 days to 10 days last year, but the longer period was kept for residential settings. With the self-isolation period for the public cut further to seven days in the last month, it has now been decided to reduce the period to 10 days in residential settings.

The change also applies to residents who are vaccinated but unable to get a booster shot due to recent infection.

The revised guidelines remove the presumption of protection as a result of previous infection in the absence of a person being vaccinated.

They suggest the use of carbon dioxide monitors to identify areas of poor ventilation. Hepa filters can be effective in reducing concentrations of infectious aerosols in a single space but have not been shown to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection, the guidelines state.