Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris has announced a $78 million support package for nursing homes around the country in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The package includes twice-daily staff temperature checks, priority testing and financial support for nursing homes affected by coronavirus. 

The Irish Government will also supply nursing homes with an adequate supply of PPE and access to oxygen. 

Irish health services have identified 40 clusters of coronavirus in nursing homes around the country. A cluster refers to three or more infections in the same institution within a three-day period. 

Nursing homes are high-risk institutions due to the age profile of most residents and Simon Harris says that there needs to be "active screening" in homes across the country. 

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The Government wants nursing home staff to have their temperature taken twice a day so that any staff member who has developed symptoms can go home as soon as possible. 

The Government also wants to curb staff movement between residential facilities and will provide alternative accommodation and transport for staff if they require it. 

The support package will additionally provide a temporary assistance payment to both public and private nursing homes where clusters of COVID-19 are identified. The scheme will last for three months and will support the critical services provided by a nursing home. 

Any nursing home that has an outbreak of COVID-19 will qualify for a €75,000 payment every month between April and June. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said that the number of confirmed cases in nursing homes was concerning and more needed to be done to stop the spread in the facilities throughout the country. 

“We need to see continuous actions being taken to reduce the risk of transmission in nursing homes and long-term residential facilities,” Holohan said. 

There have been 4,273 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland and 120 deaths at the time of writing. The majority of people who have died have been over 65 and the government is advising anyone over 70 or with an underlying health condition to stay at home and continue cocooning. 

Holohan said that the next seven to ten days would be crucial for understanding the growth in new cases. He said that National Public Health Emergency Team should be able to make "more certain estimates" about trends by Easter weekend when the impact of strict government measures becomes more apparent. 

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