Nursing homes expect serial testing to begin again next week

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Nursing homes expect to reintroduce an “early detection system” for sequential Covid-19 testing starting next week in response to the surge in coronavirus infections.

Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly announced the return of regular screening of nursing home employees as one of the government’s new measures to guard against a surge in cases.

Nearly 600 nursing homes across the country will undergo serial testing again to prevent an outbreak in one of the most vulnerable places for the disease.

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“This will lead to early detection of cases,” said Tadge Daly, chief executive of the Irish Nursing Foundation, a representative group behind the private nursing home sector.

“We saw 3,700 new cases yesterday, so there is significant transmission in the community and that equates to an outbreak in nursing homes. That is the unfortunate and unfortunate reality.”

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The group of private nursing home operators that represent four out of five nursing homes in the country said the “infrastructure” for serial testing is in place from the previous program that was halted last summer as new cases declined as vaccines were introduced.

Daly, CEO of NHI, said he will meet with HSE on Wednesday to discuss the return of serial tests and a third booster vaccine for health care workers starting this weekend.

The government announced the extension of booster vaccinations for healthcare workers following a recommendation on Monday from the National Immunization Advisory Committee.

People age 65 or older in nursing homes as well as people over 80 have been receiving booster vaccinations since the beginning of last month. The boosters are being extended to people aged 60 to 80 as a way to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable from Covid-19.

The NHI also wants the government to reintroduce Temporary Assistance Payments System (TAPS) to help nursing homes at the cost of infection prevention and control measures as measures are ramped up again to limit the spread of the virus in nursing homes.

There were 12 new outbreaks with 87 confirmed linked cases reported in nursing homes last week, according to the latest Covid-19 cluster data from the Health Protection Surveillance Center.

Nursing homes have bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, causing 62 percent of the 3,509 deaths linked to the outbreak.

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