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Testing at NI care homes to be undertaken if possible outbreak or cluster is identified

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Health officials reported under 300 deaths during the same period.

Health officials reported under 300 deaths during the same period.

Health officials reported under 300 deaths during the same period.

New official guidance means coronavirus testing will now be carried out on all staff and all residents in care homes in Northern Ireland if they have been identified as having a potential outbreak or cluster of infections.

The previous approach was to test staff and residents displaying symptoms.

Health Minister Robin Swann announced the revised guidance as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in hospitals in Northern Ireland was expected to hit 300 today.

He also announced £6.5m in additional funding for care homes here. Under the support package, homes will receive a payment of £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000, depending on their size.

Mr Swann said the new guidance provides up-to-date advice on how "to support care homes and their staff to keep themselves, and the vulnerable people they care for, safe and well".

He said: "I am also taking steps to ensure that homes can continue to operate at this difficult time. Health and social care trusts will continue to work in partnership with care home providers to help deal with staff shortages.

"Where people have responded to our Workforce Appeal, those with the right skills will be prioritised for deployment with independent care home providers.

"Trust staff have already been redeployed to care homes and will continue to be."

The updated guidance means all patients being discharged from acute hospital care to a care home are to be tested 48 hours before discharge.

In addition, all patients or residents being transferred into a care home from any setting - whether from hospital, supported living or directly from their own home - will be tested 48 hours prior to admission. This will help care home staff to understand each resident's status and to plan their care effectively, the Department of Health said.

The new guidance makes clear that all patients discharged from hospitals into care homes - whether they have tested negative or not - should be isolated for 14 days.

In addition, all care homes are asked to make sure they check residents and staff twice a day for symptoms of coronavirus.

The Department of Health yesterday said a further five people here had lost their lives to Covid-19.

It brings the total number of deaths to 299 since the start of the outbreak.

According to the latest official figures, a total of 20,732 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday, up by 413 from the day before.

The Irish health department said there had been an additional 26 deaths in the Republic, bringing the total there to 1,087.

Belfast Telegraph