Northern Ireland’s nursing homes are to receive a £6.5 million funding boost.
Health Minister Robin Swann also confirmed a further expansion of testing and the publication of updated guidance for care homes aimed at strengthening infection prevention and control and protecting residents.
Mr Swann said: “The additional funding announced today will help ensure homes can increase the level of cleaning undertaken and bring in any additional staff they need to help support the isolation of residents when this is necessary.”
Under the support package, homes will receive a payment of £10k, £15k or £20k – depending on their size.
The updated guidance makes clear that all patients discharged from hospitals into care homes – whether they have tested negative or not – should be subject to isolation 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.
Mr Swann added: “Symptoms in care home residents can be atypical so increased vigilance is critical.”
Trade unions have been negotiating on sending NHS staff to help under pressure private nursing homes cope with the pandemic.
In a statement the unions said: “Following intensive negotiation Health Service Trade Unions have secured agreement on the protection of terms and conditions for health service staff volunteering to support their colleagues in the independent sector at this time of great need.
“Our aim has been to protect residents and staff alike.
“On the key issues of testing and PPE, all residents and staff in the Covid 19 homes will now be tested and the full range of appropriate PPE will be available to the workforce.
“The Department of Health has produced in association with the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Board the following ‘GUIDANCE FOR NURSING AND RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES IN NORTHERN IRELAND’.
“It has been agreed with Trade Unions that this guidance is a work in progress and will remain under constant review and be amended as required going forward.”