Nearly 100 Covid-19 cases in nursing homes in two-week period

Sector plans to reopen to visitors from Monday following closure since mid-March

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, who represent private and voluntary homes, said providers would ‘be very vigilant’ to the disease returning as visits resumed.  Photograph: Bryan James Brophy

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, who represent private and voluntary homes, said providers would ‘be very vigilant’ to the disease returning as visits resumed. Photograph: Bryan James Brophy

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There have been nearly 100 coronavirus cases in nursing homes reported in a two-week period across 25 different facilities, according to new figures provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The nursing home sector plans to reopen to visitors from Monday, having been closed since mid-March in an attempt to prevent the virus, also known as Covid-19, entering nursing homes.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), who represent private and voluntary homes, said providers would “be very vigilant” to the disease returning as visits resumed.

Residents will be limited to two named visitors, who must undergo temperature checks beforehand, under the latest guidelines.

The sector has been severely hit by Covid-19, accounting for around half of the 1,703 total deaths from the virus in the State.

As of midnight on Tuesday, June 9th, 497 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified to the HSE in the previous 14 days, and of those 94 cases related to nursing homes.

The cases related to both residents and staff and were spread across 25 different nursing home clusters.

Dr Ronan Glynn, the State deputy chief medical officer, said on Thursday that cases diagnosed in the last 14 days were regarded as “active” cases.

A Department of Health spokeswoman added that some cases “may be notified or identified as linked to a nursing home cluster at a later date.”

“It is important to note that this should not be interpreted as 25 new clusters. Over the same 14-day period just two new clusters were identified in nursing homes”, she said.

Guidelines

Under the visiting guidelines, family members will be required to confirm they have no Covid-19 symptoms before entering a nursing home.

Visitors should be staggered and limited to less than 30 minutes, with each visitor only allowed a maximum of one visit per week. Children under 16 will not be permitted to visit residents.

There will be weekly testing of staff and residents starting next week, in order to quickly identify any new cases in the facilities.

Mr Daly said the resumption of visits was “not a new dawn” that signalled the sector was in the clear, and nursing homes would have “rigorous” processes to ensure the disease did not re-enter facilities.

“If individual homes don’t feel they can open on Monday I have been saying to them to err on the side of caution . . . I know some members won’t be open on Monday, it might be Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Monday next week,” he said.

“The primary function is to protect the residents, it isn’t the case that on Monday we are going back to the old [pre-Covid] ways.”

Mr Daly said he would favour “regional” restrictions on visitors to homes if certain regions or counties saw outbreaks of the virus in the coming weeks, rather than a return to the blanket nationwide ban introduced in March.

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