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Covid-19 is creeping back into nursing homes, TDs to be told

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Cases of Covid-19 are creeping back into Ireland's nursing homes in places where community transmission of the virus is high.

The warning of the threat to some of the most vulnerable people in the community will be made at the Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 Response today.

Dr Kathleen MacLellan, the Department of Health's assistant secretary for social care, will outline how four new outbreaks of the disease have emerged in nursing homes in recent weeks, on top of 35 remaining open clusters.

She is expected to tell TDs that it is of "great concern that heightened community transmission will bring further unwitting transmission of Covid-19 into nursing homes, impacting on those most ­vulnerable to the virus".

It comes as the Dáil's Covid-19 probe examines the report of the Nursing Homes Expert Panel, and just days after new restrictions were introduced on visits to nursing homes in Dublin. Over the next three weeks, just one nominated visitor is allowed to visit a family member at nursing homes in the capital.

Members of the expert group will tell the committee that the 985 deaths in nursing homes represented 56pc of all deaths from Covid-19 so far.

They will say: "We as a society mourn their loss and offer condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who lost someone during the pandemic."

The expert group will outline the recommendations they made, including the "critical" need to maintain Covid-19 Response Teams for nursing homes and providing residential care centres with access to rapid testing and results.

Ms MacLellan will say that new Covid-19 cases across the whole population and in nursing homes steadily declined in the last few months.

But she also say: "We are now unfortunately seeing a gradual change in our epidemiological situation and nursing homes have not remained unaffected."

She will outline how there have been 281 clusters in nursing homes from the start of the pandemic to September 10. More than 85pc of these clusters are now closed, but "39 remain as open clusters".

The open clusters are said to be in areas of high community transmission, with 27 in the east of the country, 10 in the mid-west and two in the north-east.

Raising concern about the situation, Ms MacLellan will say that "sustained communication and inter-agency co-­operation must remain central to the response to Covid-19". She says guidance, personal protective equipment, staff, testing, financial support and infection prevention and control training have been provided to nursing homes. She will also outline how 23 Covid-19 Response Teams have been put in place.

She will say the department is "fully committed" to progressing the recommendations of the expert group and that the Government's plan for living with Covid-19 also places an "important focus" on supports for nursing homes.

Senior HSE official David Walsh will tell TDs that the HSE's Winter Plan will reflect how support for nursing homes will be "embedded within services".

Irish Independent