A total of 297 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been detected in Northern Ireland’s nursing and residential care homes, the Public Health Agency has said.
The figures are provisional and for the period up to 20 April.
The PHA says a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to manage such situations and that there are “well-established” NHS links with the facilities to help limit the spread of infection.
Director of Public Health Professor Hugo van Woerden said: “When the PHA receives a notification of an issue of acute respiratory infection in a care home, the agency’s health protection team investigates and supports the provider in managing the outbreak.
“A comprehensive risk assessment is completed of the incident, which includes an assessment of each individual resident and the environment, and an ongoing assessment of the severity, spread, and context of the incident.”
He added that advice specific to Covid-19 is given regarding isolation, containment and infection prevention and control practice, including cleaning, testing information, how to manage symptoms, when to request additional medical advice and personal protective equipment.
“When a nursing or residential care home outbreak is over, a thorough clean of the facility is advised,” Professor Hugo van Woerden said.
“The PHA’s health protection team will support the facility through this process and, following this, a final outbreak summary report is produced.
“I know there is understandable concern in the community about care homes in particular, but throughout this process, we are working very closely with care facilities and providing the practical advice and support to deal with emerging issues locally.”
He added: “The work we are undertaking with care homes is what we do with a range of infectious diseases week-in, week-out, and the same processes are being followed to deal with coronavirus.”
According to the PHA, more people in care homes are being tested as it can be difficult to identify the symptoms of Covid-19 in some older people.
“When Covid-19 is identified in a facility, all symptomatic residents and staff are now tested,” he explained.
“And work continues on how this can be extended further as testing capacity in Northern Ireland increases.”
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