Tuesday, 27 July 2021
Department of Health
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has recently published updated guidance on visiting in long-term residential care: COVID-19: Normalising Visiting in Long Term Residential Care Facilities (LTRCFs). This guidance came into effect on 19 July. The public health advice is to restore visiting to near normal in terms of frequency of visits in those settings with a high level of vaccination of residents as quickly as possible, while also recognising the need to remain cautious as we continue to deal with the evolving risks associated with COVID-19.
The new guidance provides that:
- Providers should put in place the necessary measures to progress to more normalised visiting and visiting frequency as quickly as possible in line with public health guidance with no more than two visitors at any one time.
- Routine visiting will no longer need to be scheduled in advance.
- There is no requirement to have a list of nominated visitors.
- The duration of the visit should not be limited.
- Fewer restrictions will apply to residents going on outings or visits outside of the nursing home.
In relation to outings, the guidance provides that outings and visits to a home can be facilitated if there is a high level of vaccination in the nursing home. Nursing home residents are reminded that they should follow public health advice while on outings from the nursing home. This means keeping distance from other people, regularly washing hands and wearing masks when indoors with people that might not be vaccinated. The guidance states that residents do not need to stay in their room on their return from a drive or visit. If a resident is not vaccinated the risk to them of going out to meet other people is a lot greater especially if the people they meet are not vaccinated.
Notwithstanding the current positive epidemiological outlook and the cautious reopening of society, risks continue to remain and emergent risks such as variants of concern present ongoing challenges and the need for vigilance. Visiting arrangements should continue to take account of general public health advice and the necessary infection prevention and control measures, to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 and protect those living in our communities. This is particularly important in the context of the increasing prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant. This new variant poses a significant risk, in particular to those who are not yet fully protected though vaccination.
Visitors are reminded of their responsibilities with regard to self-checks for COVID-19 in advance of visits, infection and prevention control and social interaction with all individuals, while in the nursing home.
The guidance will be kept under continuing review as new evidence and data emerges.