New guidelines for visits to long-term residential care facilities have been published.
The guide aims to further support people and their families in visiting loved ones in care facilities, including nursing homes, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The publication comes after advocacy groups called for a standardisation of regulations in the facilities.
Sage Advocacy had previously said that a lack of clarity regarding the guidelines has led to varying degrees of implementation in facilities.
They report that some nursing homes have taken a "closed-door policy" to infection control while others view public health guidelines as "simply guidelines and do not have to be followed."
Today's announcement will provide further detail and clarity that aims to balance the public health measures with the mental health and well being of residents and their contacts.
Commenting on the news, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler said "We are all aware of the importance of continued social interaction and of the difficulties that have been experienced in maintaining these interactions in a safe manner, especially with older people and those who are medically vulnerable.
"It is critical that the right to have visitors is balanced with the need to ensure that visitations to nursing homes do not compromise overall resident care or adherence to requisite infection control procedures."
"The guidelines re-emphasises that in circumstances where visiting may need to be restricted or suspended in nursing homes for the protection of residents and staff, alternative arrangements such as “window visiting” is acceptable across all 5 levels of the framework of restrictive measures," she added.
The guidelines align with 5 level framework laid in the Living with Covid-19 Plan and provides advice for when outbreaks or clusters occur in care facilities.