Visitors to nursing homes will need Covid passes starting next Monday, although exceptions will apply

Nursing home owners will be able to ask people visiting residents for proof of a Covid-19 pass from next Monday.

However, exceptions are made for humanitarian reasons.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly approved a decision that visiting guidelines for long-term care facilities include a requirement for potential visitors to be asked to indicate whether they are immune by vaccination or a previous infection.

This was confirmed in new guidance released yesterday.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan also said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) strongly recommends “that, subject to operational feasibility, the Covid-19 pass be adopted as a requirement for visits to health facilities with a provision for humanitarian exemptions”.

The guidelines of the Health Protection Monitoring Center said the challenge will be defining “compassionate circumstances”, and that will require judgment.

The term should not be interpreted as limited to the circumstances in which the death of a resident is imminent, he said.

Decision to require Covid-19 pass hailed by Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland, who said it would further reduce risk to residents.

Exceptions can be made when critical and humanitarian circumstances apply.

These may be circumstances in which end of life is imminent or when a resident is significantly distressed or disturbed.

It can also be an event such as the death of a spouse or a birthday.

Nursing home outbreak figures show they have fallen to three from six the week before, with the rollout of booster shots for nearly all residents playing a major role.

It comes as 3,680 new cases of Covid were confirmed yesterday, with 543 patients hospitalized, a drop from eight.

However, intensive care units were under great pressure as the number of critically ill Covid-19 patients rose to 97, an increase of eight overnight.

The health care system is now under great pressure.

An investigation of the Independent Irish revealed that there was a delay of at least 24 hours to get a Covid-19 PCR test at 14 of 40 testing centers across the country that offer self-referrals.

Dublin and Cork are experiencing a huge demand for testing, and yesterday there was only availability at one Dublin test center and one Cork test center over the next two days.

From 11 a.m. yesterday, nine of the 40 testing centers across the country that offer self-referrals had no appointments available for yesterday or today.

This includes City West, Croke Park, Sandyford and Inchicore in Dublin; The Lee, South Douglas Road and St Stephen’s Hospital in Cork; Newcastle, Wicklow; and Punchestown, Kildare.

Only 11 of the 40 centers were available for yesterday, with the next meeting available in Dublin at 3:05 pm today and in Cork at 10:55 am.

Of these 11 centers, seven had a certain number of time slots available for the rest of the day, the other four having only one time slot.

The counties with the most slots available were Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Mayo and Roscommon. This despite the fact that Donegal is one of 11 counties that have been put on ‘Covid Alert’.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: “We have seen a sustained and extremely high demand for Covid-19 testing at our community testing centers in the past few weeks in particular.

“The Community Testing Service was originally created to support the delivery of 15,000 tests per day.

“The service has a number of additional measures that we have implemented to increase that number of daily tests during peak periods to 20,000 tests per day.

“Over the past few days, we have routinely performed over 20,000 tests per day.

“Our priority is to ensure that general practitioners can refer patients for a Covid-19 PCR test when they feel it is warranted, and that close contacts of confirmed cases identified as requiring a Covid-19 PCR test obtain their test appointment as soon as possible.

“We are currently working on a number of additional surge options to increase the availability of community testing.”

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