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More difficult to contain Covid-19 in nursing homes, expert warns

Figures show there are 155 coronavirus clusters in homes around the country.

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St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise, Co Laois, where the HSE confirmed that nine residents in the Maryborough Centre died over the bank holiday weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise, Co Laois, where the HSE confirmed that nine residents in the Maryborough Centre died over the bank holiday weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise, Co Laois, where the HSE confirmed that nine residents in the Maryborough Centre died over the bank holiday weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

The chairman of the Covid-19 expert advisory group has said it is more difficult to contain coronavirus in nursing homes compared to hospitals.

The latest figures show there are at least 155 Covid-19 clusters in nursing homes in the Republic and almost half of the deaths recorded have been among patients in homes.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, a consultant virologist and director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL), told Newstalk FM it is harder to contain the virus in nursing homes compared to hospitals.

I think the scale of the infection numbers in the nursing home setting was probably not something that was envisaged very early onDr Cillian De Gascun, NVRL

He said: “Nursing homes are not as straightforward as hospitals because you are trying to get that balance between people living in what is their home while also having significant care needs.

“It is not as easy to divide into different wards or zones and prevent cross-contamination.”

Dr De Gascun said the outbreaks “have highlighted issues people were not aware of” in the nursing home sector.

He said: “I think the scale of the infection numbers in the nursing home setting was probably not something that was envisaged very early on.

“It was not something that we had seen from the early stages of the pandemic in other countries but it is certainly a priority now for the department and for the HSE.”

The Health Service Executive said that 17 people who are still living at a residential centre in Co Laois where eight patients with Covid-19 died over the bank holiday weekend will have their conditions reviewed.

The HSE confirmed that nine residents in the Maryborough Centre, St Fintan’s Hospital, Portlaoise, Co Laois, died over the bank holiday weekend.

In all, nine people died at the centre last weekend – aged between 66 and 84 – and eight had tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement, the executive said: “The HSE would like to express its sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased.

“Staff at the centre are in contact with the families of the deceased and are available for support and advice.”

The HSE said the remaining 17 residents are being managed as though they had the virus and will have their conditions reviewed.

On Wednesday night, it was confirmed two healthcare workers at a hospital in Co Kilkenny died from Covid-19 since last weekend.

A woman in her 50s and a man in his 40s both fell ill while working at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny.

The woman died in the hospital on Wednesday and the man died at his home on Tuesday.

PA