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From Friday, visitors will be allowed back into hospitals in Northern Ireland

More restrictions are being eased in healthcare settings

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Western Trust confirms testing for staff

Altnagelvin Hospital will welcome back visitors from Friday.

From Friday, visitors will be allowed back into hospitals in Northern Ireland.

New guidance that will facilitate increased visiting in health and social care settings in Northern Ireland will come into effect from May 7, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.

The updated guidance for visiting will apply across all care settings including hospitals (including maternity), hospices and care homes.

From Friday, every patient in hospital in Northern Ireland will be able to benefit from a daily visit with at least one person.

This will remain the case for four weeks before a review is carried out.

If things are going well, the number of visitors allowed in to visit patients will be increased to two.

The Health Minister said: “I fully recognise the importance of visiting for those who are receiving care. I hope this guidance will be widely welcomed.

“It is also important to remember that the threat from COVID-19 remains very real. Everyone has a vital role to play when it comes to safe visiting. That includes social distancing, hand hygiene and not visiting if you are feeling unwell yourself.”

The new visiting guidance is spread over two documents, with bespoke advice provided dependent on the category of care setting involved:

'A Pathway to Enhanced Visiting' sets out a new approach to visiting in hospices and hospitals - including Maternity and other services.

'Visiting With Care – A Pathway' was developed by the Public Health Agency, working with representatives from the statutory sector, representatives from various relatives’ groups and independent healthcare providers.

It sets out an agreed new approach to supporting safe and proportionate increased visiting in care homes. This includes updated arrangements for the safe management of care home residents receiving visitors, as well as residents being able to visit other households, community facilities and take part in excursions.

Minister Swann continued: “Visiting was only ever restricted because it was absolutely necessary to do so to protect patients and residents from the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent development of COVID-19 infection.

"Given the progress that has been made against the virus, the time is now right to take steps to carefully re-introduce visiting.”

Commenting on the launch of the new guidance materials, he added: “I welcome the work completed to draw up these updated guidance documents and hope that by implementing them we will take another step along the road to recovery.”

Both documents are available on the Department of Health’s website - www.health-ni.gov.uk/Covid-19-visiting-guidance

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