Nursing homes across Northern Ireland are awaiting guidelines from health experts over whether to impose restrictions on the number of visitors as concerns over the spread of the coronavirus grow.
Homes with elderly residents say they are continuing to take guidelines from the Public Health Agency, though in the Republic of Ireland, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) announced there would be a ban on children and groups visiting in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease to the most vulnerable.
It’s understood the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, will be meeting with health chiefs at the Health and Social Care Board early next week to discuss the concerns.
When contact by the Belfast Telegraph, several care home operators in Northern Ireland said they were monitoring the situation closely, but would be following advice from the Public Health Authority about whether limits on visitors and other preventative measures should be put in place.
One of the biggest operators in Northern Ireland is Four Seasons Health Care.
“We are always vigilant for illnesses that could impact our residents and are fully focused on the safety and wellbeing of our residents and team,” a Four Seasons spokesperson said.
“Our Senior Clinicians and Health and Safety representatives are actively reviewing and acting on all guidance from the authorities regarding Coronavirus and applying it to our robust existing policies and procedures.
“As this is a developing situation, we will continue to monitor the situation and update our approach in accordance with recommendations from the authorities.”
Nursing Homes Ireland said the decision to restrict visitors was made for the protection of nursing home residents.
The number of cases of Covid-19 in the south of Ireland more than doubled on Thursday, with the first case of community transmission also confirmed.
Seven new cases were confirmed by the Department of Health on Thursday night, bringing the number of cases in Ireland to 13.
A further three cases have been detected in Northern Ireland.
People are now being advised to only visit residents in urgent circumstances and are being asked to contact the home before attending.
In a statement, Nursing Homes Ireland said: “For the protection of nursing home residents, NHI has confirmed that visiting restrictions are now in place in nursing homes nationwide.
“No non-essential visiting, children or groups will be allowed.
“We urge prospective visitors to nursing homes to be cognisant and understanding of the measure that is required in the interest of resident and staff safety.”
It added: “All visitors are asked to contact prior to attending.
“Visitors should only seek to attend in urgent circumstances and the management reserve the right to impose full restrictions where necessary.
“The virus presents an unprecedented situation for our nursing homes and the care provided within them.”
Republic of Ireland
Irish health officials are scrambling to trace dozens more people who could have been exposed to coronavirus after the number of confirmed cases in the Republic doubled in 24 hours.