No visitors allowed at nursing homes until end of month

A further 10 cases have now been linked to the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at 1 Thomson Lane after one case was first identified there on Tuesday. Among the new cases is a 102-year-old woman, the oldest Covid-19 patient to date in Singapore.
A further 10 cases have now been linked to the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at 1 Thomson Lane after one case was first identified there on Tuesday. Among the new cases is a 102-year-old woman, the oldest Covid-19 patient to date in Singapore.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Correction note: An earlier version of the article said the no-visitor rule starts tomorrow. It should be today (April 2). We are sorry for the error.

Visitors will no longer be allowed at all nursing homes from today until the end of the month, following the emergence of a new Covid-19 cluster at an old folks' home.

Caregivers will be allowed to communicate with residents through telephone or video calls.

Nursing homes with more than 200 beds will also implement split zones, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) said yesterday.

The moves come after MOH confirmed last night that there are now 11 coronavirus cases at the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home.

Of the number, nine are residents, including a 102-year-old woman. One is a staff member, and the last is her relative who works at the Moral Home for the Aged Sick.

Other measures announced by the authorities include safe distancing for all nursing home residents.

Staff members are also reminded to stay home if they are not well, the authorities said, as they reiterated that nursing homes must adhere strictly to advisories on Covid-19 precautionary measures.

"MOH and AIC will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the nursing homes to ensure the safety and well-being of their residents and staff," a joint statement said.

MOH will review the suspension of visits by people to nursing homes again closer to the end of the month.

A major nursing home operator, Econ Healthcare Group, had told The Straits Times earlier in the day that it had already started barring family members from visiting residents unless the resident was critically ill.

Mr Ong Chu Poh, chief executive and chairman of Econ, which operates seven nursing homes in Singapore with 795 residents, said the homes have stepped up precautionary measures.

 
 
 
 

For instance, residents have their temperatures taken twice daily, and every four hours for those having a fever, said Mr Ong.

Exercise sessions are conducted on a one-on-one basis where possible, or, if conducted in a group, participants are spaced out from one another.

Orange Valley, which operates five homes across Singapore, has barred all face-to-face visits.

At Methodist Welfare Services' (MWS) nursing home in Choa Chu Kang, clinical and non-clinical staff have been segregated, and telecommuting has also been implemented.

MWS' management is also looking into additional measures such as further staggering work hours, extending its telecommuting arrangements and reviewing visitation arrangements.

Said Ms Diana Ooi, head of MWS' Choa Chu Kang home: "We will continue working with the authorities to ensure the safety of our residents and staff, and to safeguard their well-being. We urge those who have contact with residents of nursing homes to be socially responsible."

Singapore's multi-ministry task force fighting the coronavirus has stressed repeatedly that extra care must be taken to prevent seniors from getting the virus.

This is because older people are more vulnerable to serious complications if infected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2020, with the headline 'No visitors allowed at nursing homes until end of month'. Subscribe