I propose to take Questions Nos. 497 and 526 together.
It is important to recognise that the current social distancing measures were introduced for the overarching public health good and for the protection of all people in Ireland, particularly those who are most vulnerable to this virus. We all recognise the unprecedented impact on peoples' daily lives and I am aware of how difficult restrictions on visiting are for both nursing home residents and their families.
While visiting restrictions are required in the context of a pandemic situation, national guidance issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and available on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) website advocate a compassionate and practical approach in relation to visiting by friends and family.
Updated COVID-19 guidance on visitations to Residential Care Facilities was published by the HSE on 5 June 2020 and is effective from 15 June. It sets out the criteria for visiting residential care facilities with no ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and for visiting residential care facilities during an outbreak of COVID-19. Indoor visiting in residential care facilities where there is no ongoing COVID-19 outbreak will be permissible from 15 June in circumstances where certain criteria are followed. During an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 within a residential care facility, the guidance advises that all but essential visiting is suspended in the interests of protecting residents, visitors and staff. This guidance is available on the HPSC’s website.