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Coronavirus: People allowed to see loved ones in care homes as NI lockdown eased


Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride addresses yesterday’s Covid briefing

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride addresses yesterday’s Covid briefing

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride addresses yesterday’s Covid briefing

Hospital and care home visits are to resume from next Monday after the Health Minister announced a further easing of lockdown restrictions yesterday.

Robin Swann also said that birthing partners will now be permitted to accompany pregnant women for scans and at the birth of children.

The announcement comes after the Department of Health said there had been no further deaths due to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.

There have been three positive tests for the virus, bringing to 23 the total number of positive tests over the past week.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Northern Ireland's coronavirus death toll remains at 551 and there are currently no coronavirus-related cases in intensive care units.

"As we have passed through the peak of the spread of the virus I am acutely aware there are many families yearning to see loved ones, either in hospital or in our care hones," the minister said at the Executive's daily Covid-19 briefing.

"Whilst everything will have to remain agile for as long as the threat of the virus remains, the new guidance will include a number of measures such as in both general wards and intensive care units, one visitor at a time will now be permitted to visit a patient at any one time.

"In our Covid-free care homes two people will be permitted access to visit at any one time where this can be accommodated as long as this can be carried out safely and under the usual social distancing requirements."

Mr Swann also detailed the easing of restrictions for expectant mothers.

"An issue I have been particularly mindful of in recent weeks is that women have had to attend baby scans alone," he continued.

"I recognise personally that baby scans are a hugely important experience, not only for the mother, but also for the father.

"Birthing partners will be facilitated to accompany pregnant women to scans, anomaly scans, for the duration of labour and the birth and to visit antenatal and postnatal wards as appropriate.

"All people visiting our health and social care settings will be required to wear face coverings.

"Anyone showing or experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 or any other infection should not visit, even if those symptoms are mild or unconfirmed.

"I thank all our staff, patients, residents and family members for abiding so devotedly with what I absolutely understand was a very difficult visiting regime."

Chief Medical officer Dr Michael McBride said that he anticipated "huge anxiety" as Northern Ireland exits lockdown and warned that people should expect to see cluster outbreaks of the virus in the weeks and months ahead.

"The full impact the virus has had will not be realised for some time to come.

"The virus doesn't read our plans and it doesn't read our guidance and despite our best efforts we will see clusters and outbreaks in the weeks and months ahead," he said.

"This is something we may have to live with for some time to come."

Mr Swann said his Department was already preparing to deal with cluster outbreaks, with plans in place for isolated lockdowns if required.

He also said he was backing the call from Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon for face coverings to be mandatory on public transport.

The Executive failed to discuss the issue earlier this week, but Mr Swann said he would support the policy if it was on the agenda at Thursday's meeting.

"We have supported the strong recommendation that people should wear face coverings in confined spaces," the Minister said. "That includes on public transport."

The Chief Medical Officer said that there is now stronger evidence to support the wearing of face coverings.

"There is now stronger evidence about the benefits of face coverings in terms of protecting other people," said Dr McBride.

"But the change in the weight of the evidence hasn't translated to the number of people wearing face coverings.

"We have more work to do in convincing the public that is the right course of action.

"Making it mandatory will undoubtedly help in certain situations," he added.

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