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Coronavirus: Stormont will do all in its power to protect care residents, says Michelle O'Neill

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Michelle O’Neill at Stormont yesterday

Michelle O’Neill at Stormont yesterday

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill at Stormont yesterday

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill at Stormont yesterday

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Michelle O’Neill at Stormont yesterday

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said she wants no regrets over how the Executive is protecting care home residents from Covid-19.

Speaking at the daily Executive briefing, Mrs O'Neill said she understood why many would be "up to the ceiling" with worry for their loved ones in care homes.

It follows news that the Public Health Agency is investigating confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 in 110 care homes here.

"If you're someone out there who has a loved one in a care home right now and you read the reports every day... it's only natural and normal that you will be up to the ceiling," Mrs O'Neill said.

"You would be absolutely so anxious about what's happening to your loved one. Especially given the fact that you haven't been able to get in to see them for such a long period of time. For some people it's over two months.

"I think there's a varying pattern in terms of nursing homes. There's some nursing homes that are completely free, there's some care homes that have seriously concerning numbers and need a considerable effort put in there.

"I don't want to have regrets on the other side of this. We want to know that every day we're asking the right questions and steering things in the right direction. It's more than words just to say we need to look after our vulnerable, we need to do everything that we need to do."

The Sinn Fein vice president welcomed extra resources being made available for care homes, and that NHS staff are providing assistance.

"If we have to keep doing more then that's what we have to do," she said. "We're in this pandemic together and we need to work our way through it together."

First Minister Arlene Foster agreed with comments from the Health Minister earlier this week, who described care homes as the new battleground of the pandemic.

"We must put every bit of energy, effort and resource into making sure that we give every bit of support that we can to our nursing homes at this time," she said. "We have to have our preventative measures in place. So what does our new normal look like, what are the social distancing measures that we're going to have to adhere to?"

She said further information will be communicated in the coming days after the Executive has more time to finalise a roadmap plan for recovery in Northern Ireland.

"Those people in our care and nursing homes are our most precious and vulnerable people and we need to do all that we can," she added.

Mrs Foster also said that the Health Minister confirmed 70 dental students are providing help in care homes, and a pilot scheme for care home staff living on site full-time was being considered.

Belfast Telegraph