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Visitors to care homes will be required to show Covid certs under new guidance

Regular visitors will “only need to be checked once” and there are some exemptions on compassionate grounds.

VISITORS TO NURSING homes and other long-term care facilities are likely to be asked to show proof of vaccination or immunity from Monday, under new guidance from the HSE. 

Regular visitors will “only need to be checked once” and there are some exemptions on compassionate grounds. 

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) says the guidance is about “normalising” visiting arrangements during the pandemic and says that visiting is “an essential part” of the right of residents to “maintain meaningful relationships with people”. 

Visiting people in care homes has been suspended for significant periods during the pandemic, with the HPSC saying that the vaccination rollout in nursing homes has “greatly reduced the risk” in these settings. 

The guidance says that nursing home operators are responsible for ensuring that residents have meaningful contact with loved ones and that any restrictions in place should be the “minimum necessary” to manage the risk of disease. 

As part of the guidance, visitors are reminded that they should stay away if they are displaying respiratory symptoms or they have a fever.  

Visitors should expect a check of symptoms and to be asked to show that they fulfil the requirement to have immunity through vaccination or prior infection. 

Care Champions, a support group of families in nursing homes, has said there must be “consequences” for care facilities that do not provide opportunities for residents to see loved ones in a safe manner. 

The group points to the importance of ventilation and says that if visitor restrictions are in place “open window visits” could be facilitated. 

“It has been exceptionally distressing, despite national visiting guidance, to see some nursing homes once again unnecessarily ban outdoor and window visits in recent weeks. There is absolutely no justification for such draconian measures, eighteen months into the pandemic,” Care Champions said in a statement. 

The group is calling for the government to clarify what if any consequences exist for public and private nursing homes who fail to adhere to HSPC guidance. 

It also wants to know if there are any checks in place to monitor that safe visiting spaces are available in care homes.

“At this stage in the pandemic, simple measures such as the enforcement of national guidance, the monitoring and provision of quality visiting spaces and the introduction of the Care Partner scheme are reasonable asks which are achievable to deliver for our nursing home residents,” the group says. 

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