Plans are underway to review visiting policies for people in nursing homes and long-term residential facilities. 

A number of groups have called for the resumption of in-person visits.  

Early data has shown a drop in the number of nursing home Covid-19 cases, a trend that has been welcomed by health chiefs.

Irene Winters has regular window visits with her father at his nursing home.

For 91-year-old Paddy Homan while the visits are very welcome he misses having his loved ones in the room with him.

"It's months and months since I had them" he says. 

"I'd be delighted to have them because there are several people that want to visit me. He says he missed them all."

His daugther says that while they were able to have some visits in person during the summer they have now had a long period where it is only window visiting. 

"That is so hard," says Irene Winters, "and it's so hard to keep Daddy's spirits up," she says. She says he is lonely.

A number of groups are calling for more to be done for residents of nursing homes.

Sage Advocacy is calling for a roadmap for what happens next once people have been fully vaccinated. 

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, the national organisation, says they are getting a lot of queries from relatives who want to know what the plan is. 

Now that many nursing home residents have received the second vaccine, she says both they and their loved ones are contacting them to ask when they will be able to have safe and meaningful visits again.

The Irish Association of Social Workers say they believe that nursing home visitation is a human right. 

Amanda Casey said that all nursing home residents have a right to maintain and be connected to family and loved ones.

The HSE Chief Clinical Officer said they are planning to review the visiting policy. 

But Dr Colm Henry pointed out of over a thousand deaths in January, over a third  happened in residential  settings.

"People wouldn't forgive us if we rushed into a decision", he said. 

"I understand peoples' anxiety to get there quickly. We will be considering this over the next couple of weeks. 

"I expect some change in visitation policy as this data comes through showing decreasing lab confirmed cases in nursing homes, which we can attribute at least to some degree to the vaccine."

The CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland says clearly nursing homes are in a much better place with the vaccination programme almost complete. 

"But he said that there are still a significant number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes." 

Tadhg Daly said they want to begin the conversation about how we can safely resume in person visits in nursing homes in the coming weeks.  

He called for the phased reintroduction of in person visits to long-term residential care facilities.

He said: "The virus still poses a significant threat and we do need to balance the risk of the virus against the wellbeing of residents and obviously protecting residents is the priority. 

"What we're saying is that it's legitimate now to ask the question, given that most of the residents have received their second dose, when we can resume safely in person visits incrementally because that's a huge part of nursing home life."

He said he has engaged with the Minister for Health on the issue of antigen testing for residents and staff.