The Irish government has announced the extension of nursing home COVID outbreak assistance payments until the end of March 2022.

Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, (pictured) announced the extension during a statement yesterday.

Minister Butler said: “The payment which is available to nursing homes experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak was secured until the end of this year. I am pleased to extend it further to the end of March 2022, recognising the ongoing risks presented by COVID-19.”

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The minister outlined the support measures by the government during the pandemic, including: free PPE; serial testing; the support and engagement of HSE COVID-19 response teams and public health teams; access to staff from community and acute hospitals, where possible; a suite of focused public health guidance and training resources; and the temporary accommodation scheme for nursing home staff.

Minister Butler said many of these measures would continue “for the foreseeable future”, highlighting the introduction of serial testing to all nursing homes for two cycles from 6 December with a second cycle to begin in early January.

The minister concluded: “The state has continued to prioritise nursing home residents and staff in its response to COVID-19, including through the successful and early roll-out of the vaccine programme across the sector. This prioritisation is ongoing with the booster programme almost complete among those living in nursing homes.”

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO, said: “While extension of the Outbreak Assistance Payment to March 2022 is welcome, a senseless contradiction now presents with the continued cessation of TAPS (Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme) supports for intensified infection prevention control measures in nursing homes.

“TAPS was a scheme that supported nursing homes recoup costs for itemised intensive infection control measures that were implemented given the threat posed by COVID-19. The scheme was withdrawn in June after vaccinations were rolled out and transmission of the virus subsided.

“However, we’re now faced with Omicron and the warnings regarding the rapidity of its transmission and increased community transmission. The public health emergency is escalating and, with such, there is requirement to sustain step-up protective supports for nursing home residents and staff. Reinstatement of TAPS is an important and necessary measure required as part of our public health response to Omicron. We call upon government to immediately reinstate the scheme.”

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