Stormont’s health minister has said there are no current plans to move coronavirus-free care home residents into hotels for their safety.
The trade union Unison has called for all residents and staff working in care homes to be tested to determine who has Covid-19, with those testing negative to be moved to hotels in a bid to save lives.
Latest figures indicated the virus has now been detected in 53 residential facilities in Northern Ireland.
A Belfast city centre hotel is being transformed into a step-down facility for patients recovering from Covid-19.
Patients who may live in care homes will spend a period of time in the hotel convalescing before returning to their residential setting.
Health minister Robin Swann was asked whether he would consider expanding the use of the hotel sector for those care residents who test negative for the disease.
He said while no proposals were being ruled out, the option was not currently being pursued.
“In regards to the utilisation of hotels, it is that we haven’t taken anything off the table at this minute in time in how we support our elderly population, but it’s not a route that we are currently going down,” he told the daily Covid 19 briefing at Stormont.
“We are utilising hotels, or one hotel at this time, as a step-down facility from one of our hospital settings. So when somebody is stepping down and Covid patients are stepping down into a hotel accommodation, rather than going in to a care home or residential home, so they’re not their normal residential place, we are using the hotel as a step down.
“But at this minute in time we have no intention of using hotels to replace the accommodation and support that is provided in the care home settings.”
Earlier on Monday, deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill suggested the measure was being examined by Mr Swann.
“That’s something that the health minister is already looking at, we chatted briefly about this last week. He is looking if there is a possible way to have, for example, Covid-free residents in nursing homes moved,” she told the BBC.
“That is a very challenging thing to do, but if it is necessary and something that helps us protect people, then all those options are on the table.”
Colin Neill, of Hospitality Ulster, said the proposal for care home residents would be feasible.
“The Ramada Encore already has been converted to a hospital for people who are convalescing from coronavirus,” he said.
“It would be feasible to do, whether the powers-that-be from a health perspective feel it is doable or desirable, there are umpteen hotels that could be commissioned to take them.”