HSE urges antigen tests before nursing home visits

It's to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

The HSE has announced changes to visitation at nursing homes and other residential centres.

The organisation says while it’s important for health and well-being of residents in Long Term Residential Care Facilities’ to have regular visits, measures are being put in place to prevent the spread of Omicron.

As of today (January 10), new guidance on visiting in Long Term Residential Care Facilities (LTRCFs) across the CHO 1 area is coming into effect. This will apply to counties Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal.

It's advising visitors to consider carrying out an antigen test before visiting.

"If you are an occasional visitor you should consider self-testing for COVID-19 antigen before a visit and if you are regular visitor you should consider self-testing for COVID-19 with antigen tests twice weekly in advance of visits", said the HSE.

However, the centre in question is not required to request evidence that an antigen test has been performed and the inability of a visitor to perform self-testing for antigen should not result in a resident losing access to that visitor if they cooperate fully with all other measures

Other guidelines that were previously put in place still remain in place.

These include up to two people being allowed to visit at a time in most cases. They can be different people each time or the same people all the time.

The resident will decide if they want visits and who they want to see.

However, the HSE says that if more than around one in five residents in a nursing home or facility are not vaccinated, visiting may be more limited. But this is uncommon and the nursing home or residential care facility can give you up-to-date information about visiting.

It;s also urged people to avail of the Covid-19 vaccines and booster doses, saying "your visit will be safer for everyone if you have had your first round of COVID-19 vaccine and your booster dose, if it is available to you".

Most nursing homes will ask you to show that you have completed your first round of vaccination, including:

EU Digital COVID Certificate

HSE COVID-19 vaccination record

COVID-19 Recovery Certificate

Do not visit a nursing home or residential care facility if you have:


recently been tested for COVID-19 - wait until you are told it is safe for you to visit

symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infection, including a cold or flu

a stomach bug (gastroenteritis)

Symptoms of stomach bugs include diarrhoea and vomiting. If you have symptoms of a stomach bug, do not visit until you have no symptoms for at least 2 days.

If you have COVID-19, do not visit until your self-isolation period is over and you have no symptoms. If you are in doubt, check with your GP.

Visiting will usually be limited if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the care home. These limits should be reasonable and in place for as short a time as possible.

Staff can make allowances for the resident’s needs. For example, if someone is coming to the end of their life. A resident should not be alone in this case if someone can be with them. The visitor must also understand the risk of infection. You can discuss exceptions with the staff.

Talk to the staff before your visit so they can:

note your contact details

ask if you have any symptoms of COVID-19

explain the precautions to follow when you visit

It's OK to bring a gift or anything else the person you're visiting may need.

During your visit:

Before you enter the nursing home or residential care facility, staff will ask you if you have symptoms of COVID-19. They may also take your temperature.

Have your proof of vaccination or recovery with you, and your ID.

Wash your hands properly before and after you enter the resident's area.

You must wear a face mask when you are in communal areas.

If you and the resident are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you do not need to wear a face mask when you are alone together.

You should still do all the other things to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Going for a drive:

It's usually OK for residents to go for a drive with their visitors if everyone is fully vaccinated and the facility has a high level of vaccination. You do not need to wear face masks in the car if everyone is fully vaccinated. If you are leaving the car, be sure to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Outdoor visiting is OK even in an outbreak if:

staff can organise the visit - These need to be arranged in advance

the resident is OK to go outside

everyone can keep 2 metres apart at all times

the weather is suitable

Window visiting is always allowed. This is where a visitor stands outside and speaks to a resident at a safe distance through an open window or by telephone. Contact the staff if you want to arrange a window visit.

It may be necessary for Long Term Residential Care Facilities to adapt their visiting policy to changing circumstances and public health guidance for example if outbreaks of COVID-19 occur and if new variants of the virus emerge that cause more serious disease in Long Term Residential Care Facilities