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Stormont could create coronavirus-free nursing homes across Northern Ireland

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Arlene Foster revealed the health minister is consulting unions on the plans

Arlene Foster revealed the health minister is consulting unions on the plans

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Arlene Foster revealed the health minister is consulting unions on the plans

Health Minister Robin Swann is looking at the possibility of setting up Covid-free care homes across Northern Ireland, it has emerged.

First Minister Arlene Foster has revealed that Mr Swann is working with the unions to drive forward the plans, which would see care home staff isolate together away from their families when they are not at work.

The Executive is due to discuss the measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 in care homes across Northern Ireland when it meets today.

According to latest figures from the Department of Health, there have been 76 confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks and 37 suspected outbreaks at care homes since the beginning of the pandemic.

Of these, 19 have been designated as closed.

An outbreak is two or more cases in a home within 14 days.

It is considered closed once there have been no new cases for 14 days since the onset of the most recent case.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster yesterday, Mrs Foster said the situation in care homes in Northern Ireland, which have been branded a crisis by former Health Minister Jim Wells, is the focus for the Executive.

"We need to do as much as we can to protect our most precious and our most vulnerable residents in our care homes and at the Executive tomorrow I am quite sure the number one issue will be about how we can do even more to protect our care home residents," she said.

Mrs Foster denied officials had been slow to put in place measures to protect care homes and she also refused to say whether she agrees with a call by deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill for universal testing in care homes, saying that testing provides "a spot check at a particular point of time".

She said Mr Swann is looking at creating Covid-free homes, but she stressed that this will require support from care home staff who will have to stay away from their families for extended periods of time, before adding: "That's a big ask but we know he [Robin Swann] is working with unions to make that happen."

Belfast Telegraph