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Antigen testing for nursing home visitors should be explored by NPHET

Wednesday February 17, 2021

NHI recommends exploration as part of suite of measures to assess easing of visitor restrictions

17th February 2021: Nursing Homes Ireland states the rollout of antigen testing should be explored by NPHET as part of a suite of public health measures to assess easing of visitor restrictions in nursing homes. NHI has called on NPHET to consider all options to assess a phased return to in-person visiting and to bring recommendations to Government for inclusion in the revised Government Living with Covid plan.

As antigen tests are now approved for use by the HSE in hospitals, NHI has called on NPHET to ensure rollout of antigen testing is prioritised for the nursing home sector. Rollout can potentially be incorporated within revised visitor guidance with view to easing visitor restrictions through an incremental approach. It is important to note, introduction of antigen testing must be part of continued enhanced infection prevention control and heightened vigilance measures to protect residents from a virus that continues to live amongst us. The requirement to suppress the virus in the community is initially absolutely critical and it is promising the number of community cases are now currently declining. This community decline, together with vaccination of residents and staff, offers hope.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “Recent confirmation by the Minister for Health that antigen tests have been approved signify another contributor in our battle to protect against Covid19. Antigen testing can fulfil an important role in supporting visits in nursing homes, which are informed and guided by public health.  In this context, antigen testing should be considered as part of a range of measures that include ongoing strict infection prevention and control protocols. We need to explore all options to assist a phased return to in-person visiting in nursing homes and antigen testing can play a role in this regard. A very high degree of vigilance will remain imperative as we strive to recommence in-person visits for residents. This must entail ongoing local risk assessments to evaluate transmission rates within communities.

“Nursing home residents and their relatives have endured great upset due to necessary public health visitor restrictions in the past year. We believe effective rollout of antigen testing should be a priority for NPHET with a view to it guiding and informing the review of visitation guidance in tandem with IPC measures, risk assessment and safe rollout of the vaccination across nursing homes and broader society.”

NHI CEO Tadhg Daly is available for further interview. Interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive who can be contacted at 087 9082970.