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From Monday coming visiting arrangements for all care settings in NI are expected to change from current Level 5 restrictions down to Level 4. This should see corresponding changes to visiting arrangements at all Health and Social Care Trust facilities although the Southern Trust hasn't confirmed the latest arrangements for this area to the press at this point but we will keep you updated.

Daisy Hill Hospital.

It follows the announcement today that the four UK Chief Medical Officers recommended that the Regional Alert Level should move back from Level 5 to Level 4 with immediate effect. As a result, the visiting restrictions for all care settings across Northern Ireland as detailed in the visiting guidance will revert to those applying at Level 4.  

Changes proposed from Monday 1 March

  • All Health and Social Care Trust facilities in Northern Ireland should now move to facilitate at least one face-to-face visit per week by one person.
  • In Hospices, one visitor for one hour daily is recommended where the environment is Covid-19 secure. This means maintaining social distance of up to 2m, attending to hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene, good ventilation and appropriate use of PPE and wearing face covering.
  • In maternity services – one partner will be able to accompany the pregnant woman to dating scan, anomaly scan, early pregnancy clinic, fetal medicine appointments and when the woman is in active labour (to be defined by midwife). Visits in antenatal and postnatal wards will be for one person for up to one hour once a week.
  • Care homes that do not have a current outbreak should facilitate a variety of visiting arrangements, including in indoor settings where possible, to enable meaningful contact between residents and their loved ones. Care homes that haven’t already implemented arrangements for care partners are encouraged to do so.

The guidance is subject to local risk assessment. It will be kept under constant review and revised as appropriate.

Justin McNulty MLA has welcomed the news “At the start of January visits to hospital wards and other care settings were completely suspended. This was a very difficult challenging time for all families who had a loved one in hospital.  They all know and appreciate the care from Nurses and Care staff and they know they have done their best to keep connectivity between the families and the patient through new technology such as Zoom Calls. But this has been no substitute for the human touch of in-person contact.

"I know of cases were families had a loved one in hospital for over forty days and they have not been able to go in and visit them in person.  In one particular case the patient in hospital had suffered a stroke and they had become confused and disoriented.  The family longed to see their relative face to face and offer love, compassion and reassurance but that couldn’t be accommodated.

"I welcome today’s easement, especially given the success of the vaccination programme and the lowering number of cases in the community.  Whilst this easement will only allow for a visit once a week, it will come as a huge relief to any family with a loved one in hospital for a prolonged period of time." said Mr McNulty.

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