Limited visits to residents in nursing homes and other centres will be allowed during future outbreaks of Covid-19.
Visiting restrictions to these facilities, which were badly hit by the virus, left many residents unable to see relatives and friends.
Revised rules issued yesterday say that if there is an outbreak of Covid-19, visits will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical circumstances, such as end of life.
When the situation has been evaluated and control measures put in place, family and friends should be advised that visits that are essential will be facilitated.
General visiting will be limited, based on a documented risk assessment to be reviewed at least every two weeks.
If the outbreak is confined to one wing or one building on a campus, there may be less of a requirement for visiting restrictions in other sections.
All visitors will be required to accept that visiting during an outbreak is associated with some risk to them, the guidelines from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.
From this week, the relaxed restrictions mean children can visit nursing homes for the first time, with appropriate supervision.
The Covid-19 restrictions limiting the number of nominated people allowed to visit a resident to two have also been lifted.
There is flexibility around the number of people allowed to visit a resident at one time and a visit can last up to an hour.
Indoor visiting for residents where there is no ongoing Covid-19 outbreak should be encouraged and normalised as soon as is practical, but with appropriate practical precautions to manage the risk.
"I've listened to the views of many families and I recognise that the impact of Covid-19 on society in general, and especially those living in nursing homes, has been considerable," said Junior Mental Health and Older People Minister Mary Butler.
"We must remember that residential settings are people's homes."
Organised outings by bus or car should generally be facilitated with individual risk assessments completed and overseen by the person in charge in order to eliminate any identified risk, the advice says.
Outings for a drive with a visitor may be allowed subject to risk assessment and confirmation that the visitor does not have symptoms of Covid-19 and is not a contact of a confirmed case.
During periods of high community transmission of the virus, residents may be advised against leaving the nursing home based on a risk assessment.
Where residents do go for a drive, the resident and visitor should be reminded of the importance of social distancing and the need to take extra care when outside the home.
Ms Butler pointed out that "during these times there has been a particular emphasis on retaining a holistic view of the well-being of residents".
"There is a need to be cognisant of their rights as citizens, and being vigilant that in seeking to shield them from infection these rights are not infringed upon to an extent, or in a manner, that is disproportionate," she added.
"As the disease is becoming more suppressed in the community, the National Public Health Emergency Team has advised that the gradual reintroduction of usual activities while taking public health precautions should commence.
"This advice is reflected in the latest visiting guidance."