MORE visits will be allowed in hospitals, hospices and care homes in the North of Ireland from this Friday, May 7, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.
Visits were suspended in health and social care settings in January after Northern Ireland saw a spike in Covid-19 cases after Christmas, however some end of life visits were still allowed.
The latest relaxations will see care home visits increase from one per week to two per week for two people at once and for up to one hour over a seven day period and after 5pm.
This will be reviewed after two weeks with a view to increasing to three people.
A booking system will be put in place for all visitors including evenings and weekends.
Children can also visit and the responsibility will rest with the adult for supervision to ensure they adhere to all safety measures.
Meanwhile, handwashing will replace use of gloves to enable handholding during care home visits but the wearing of aprons and masks will remain.
Residents can also resume trips out of the home and will not have to isolate on returning to their care setting.
The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said the new visiting guidance will safely permit increased visits between families, enabling care home residents to have more regular, meaningful face-to-face contact with their loved ones over the coming weeks and months.
“The importance of having frequent, personal contact with family and the impact this has on the health and wellbeing of older people, is well documented,” Mr Lynch said.
“I understand there will be some people who feel that the scale and pace of change is not quick enough, however I believe this pathway offers a balanced and measured approach where visitation rights are being increased at a pace proportionate to the level of risk.”
From Friday, hospital patients can have two visitors daily.
The relaxations will also apply to maternity wards, allowing birthing partners to be present during pregnancy scans, for the induction and duration of labour, at birth and for up to three hours afterwards.
Mr Swann said: “I fully recognise the importance of visiting for those who are receiving care.
“I hope this guidance will be widely welcomed.
“It is also important to remember that the threat from Covid-19 remains very real. Everyone has a vital role to play when it comes to safe visiting. That includes social distancing, hand hygiene and not visiting if you are feeling unwell yourself.”
He added: “Visiting was only ever restricted because it was absolutely necessary to do so to protect patients and residents from the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent development of Covid-19 infection.
“Given the progress that has been made against the virus, the time is now right to take steps to carefully re-introduce visiting.”
To read the guidance in full visit: www.health-ni.gov.uk/Covid-19-visiting-guidanceTags: