Limited visits to residents in nursing homes will be allowed in future during an outbreak of Covid-19.
Visiting restrictions to these facilities, which were badly hit by the virus for a number of months, 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 - for example, end of life.
When the situation has been evaluated and control measures are in place, family and friends should be advised that visits that are essential will be facilitated.
General visiting will be limited based on a risk assessment that is reviewed at least every two weeks. If the outbreak is confined to one wing or one building on a campus, there may be less requirement for visiting restrictions in other sections.
All visiting will be subject to the visitor accepting that visiting during an outbreak of infection is associated with some risk to them and their choice to accept that risk, the guidelines from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.
From this week the relaxed restrictions mean children can visit for the first time.
The Covid-19 restriction which limited the number of people nominated to visit a resident to two has been lifted.
There is also flexibility around the number of visitors to a resident at one time and the visit can last up to an hour.
Indoor visiting for residents where there is no ongoing Covid-19 outbreak should be encouraged and should be normalised as soon as is practical, but with appropriate precautions to manage the risk.
Mary Butler TD, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, said: "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.
"We must remember that residential settings are people's homes."
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