Families could soon be able to pay outdoor visits to relatives in nursing homes, under plans being discussed by government officials.
The introduction of outdoor visits, while maintaining social distancing, is one option being discussed by the National Public Health Emergency Team.
It comes amid growing concerns over the impact the current ban on all visits may be having on the mental health of care home residents across Ireland.
Under the Irish government’s current schedule for lifting lockdown, visitors will not be allowed to return to nursing homes until June 29 at the earliest.
However, Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has said they are looking to find a “creative” solution to help elderly residents reconnect with loves ones.
He said: “These are people who are at advanced age in life and they are being cut off for extended periods of time from families.
“And then the challenge that that has in maintaining not just their mental health but their physical health and mobility.
“And that has a challenge in terms of their ongoing frailty and the pace at which that happens.
“So we’re concerned about that.”
Mr. Holohan also sought to rebuff any criticism of the state’s handling of outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes, saying they acted “quickly” to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
He said tackling community transmission was key to protecting older people in these facilities:
"I think the response of the State has been significant, a very early response in comparison to other countries, of a public-health-led response, which, in the first case, had to deal with community transmission of this virus,” he said.
"There is simply no way of protecting nursing homes, or any institutional setting, if we don't control the spread of this infection in the community in general."
He added that apportioning blame was “unhelpful” and that there were “lessons to learn” for all of the organisations involved in tackling Covid-19 in residential settings.