Seventeen residents at a Co Down care home have died since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be revealed.
Ringdufferin Nursing Home, which provides care to the elderly, people living with dementia and people who are terminally ill, is one of an increasing number of care homes across Northern Ireland that have been hit by a Covid-19 outbreak.
The daughter of a former resident, who died from Covid-19 last week, has paid tribute to care provided to her father during his time at the home, but has demanded answers over how he became infected with the deadly virus.
"Visiting to the home was stopped on March 16, so I hadn't seen my daddy for about seven weeks when he died," she said.
"When the manager stopped visiting to the home, her words were that it was for the residents' safety, that they were effectively cocooning the residents, and the only people who would be allowed into the home would be the staff. About a week later, I was leaving toiletries for my daddy to the home and when I was sitting in the car park I saw a car pull up and an elderly lady got out with a suitcase.
"The manager and another nurse came out with masks and gloves on and helped the lady into the home. As far as I could see, it seems like they were admitting people to the home while all this was going on.
"It's incredible, it's unbelievable that this has been happening, why would they do that?"
A spokeswoman from Ringdufferin Nursing Home near Killyleagh did not respond to the claims made by the former resident's daughter.
However, she said: "In these very difficult and challenging times our priority is our residents, safety of our staff and well-being.
"All our staff are working extremely hard to look after our residents and we are keeping ongoing communication with the residents' families.
"At this time, we are being fully supported by the health trusts and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).
"On behalf of all the staff at Ringdufferin Nursing Home, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to all families who have lost loved ones at this sad time. We are unable to make any further comments at present."
Despite the danger posed to care home residents by Covid-19, care homes across Northern Ireland have been asked to continue admitting new residents.
It emerged last month that new residents were being admitted to care homes without being tested for Covid-19 first, with official guidance stating that care homes should assume that all new residents had the infection.
Pauline Shepherd, chief executive of Independent Health & Care Providers, also said that some care homes were being threatened that business would be withdrawn if they did not accept new residents without testing.
The daughter of the former resident of Ringdufferin Nursing Home, who was not able to be with her dad when he passed away, continued: "It's absolutely disgusting.
"I really can't get my head around it at all. We're all absolutely devastated. It's been a nightmare and I can't even let myself think about what has happened. I'm definitely going to need some counselling."