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Coronavirus: 110 potential care home infections in Northern Ireland are being investigated by PHA

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PHA chief executive Olive MacLeod

PHA chief executive Olive MacLeod

PHA chief executive Olive MacLeod

Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency (PHA) is currently managing confirmed and suspected outbreaks of Covid-19 in 110 care homes.

It said 75 were confirmed to have had the virus and the remaining 35 were suspected cases. Another 16 homes no longer had the virus, it was also revealed.

PHA chief executive Olive MacLeod revealed the figures while giving evidence to Stormont’s Health Committee on Thursday morning on the impact of Covid-19.

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The Health Committee met as it was revealed that 36 out of 38 residents at one Northern Ireland care home have tested positive for coronavirus.

BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show also reported another nursing home where 29 residents out of 49 have tested positive and a third home where 36 residents out of 72 contracted the virus.

Meanwhile 17 residents at Ringdufferin Nursing Home in Co Down have died since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Official statistics show there were 158 deaths of care home residents linked to the virus up to April 24.

And it has been claimed that up to 20 staff at Muckamore Abbey Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus.

Ms MacLeod was quizzed by MLAs on the rising number of infections in care homes across NI and whether that information is being shared with families.

She said the PHA was satisfied that it is actively monitoring the situation within care homes every day.

In total 16 care homes have had outbreaks concluded since the start of the pandemic while since March 16, 126 acute respiratory outbreaks have been reported to the PHA.

An outbreak will have concluded following a deep clean of a facility and 14 days after the last symptom of the disease with a resident, Ms Macleod explained.

“All outbreaks must be reported to the Public Health Agency. Coronavirus is a reportful infection.

“On a daily basis every home must advise us if they believe they have patients with respiratory symptoms.

“If anybody has a respiratory illness they are swabbed. If there are two or more everybody in the home is swabbed including staff.

“On a daily basis we monitor and speak to that home and provide them with advice and support until the outbreak is over.

“The outbreak is only over when it has been 14 days since the last symptom.

“That home must have a terminal clean and only then will it be declared free of Covid-19 and allowed to take new patients.”

Ms MacLeod said where there is an outbreak within a care home this should be communicated by management to family members of the residents and that they cannot visit to limit the spread of infection.

“It is standard practice where there is an outbreak in the home that families are notified.

“There is flu every year and families are notified and the way we contain any spread of infection is to contain visiting and making sure there are good infection controls in that home.”

Director of Public Health, Professsor Dr Hugo van Woerden told the committee that there is “intensive” communication between the PHA and more than 100 care homes across NI.

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan raised the “serious situation” at Muckamore Abbey where he said up to 20 staff have tested positive for Covid-19 over the last week or 10 days and that there is still free movement of staff members between wards.

Prof. Dr van Woerden said he was “concerned” to hear about staff moving between different wards”.

He added: “Every effort should be made to keep staff linked to the same set of patients so that if some spread does happen in a group of patients or group of staff that that is ringfenced as soon as possible.”

Belfast Telegraph