The Dáil's Special Committee on Covid-19 has heard from representatives from the HSE and the Department for Health after the nursing homes expert panel report was published last month.

Dr Kathleen MacLellan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health, said a costing exercise is now under way to implement the recommendations of the report in order to protect the vulnerable cohort of people in nursing homes.

She said additional funding has been made available to the HSE to provide for infection prevention and control and that all bodies involved including the department, the HSE, the National Treatment Purchase Fund are continuing to look at all the costings.

HSE Implementation Lead David Walsh said supports such as PPE, covid response teams in nursing homes, and enhanced clinical supports are an immediate priority and that the HSE's Winter Plan, which is being finalised, will reflect that.

When asked by Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane about the HIQA report, which detailed concerns about an absence of clinical governance, staffing levels and the lack of PPE, Mr Walsh said the recommendations of the expert panel "puts an onus on us all collectively" to further enhance the support across the HSE.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke asked whether there is now a mechanism to deal with any future staffing challenges that might occur in the event of a further increase in the virus across residential settings.

Mr Walsh said the HSE has worked with Nursing Homes Ireland over the last few months and that nursing homes have had the benefit of investment for enhanced staffing and that every unit has been asked to put a plan in place in the event of an outbreak.

Asked by Fianna Fáil's Cormac Devlin about specific financial supports, Principal Officer at the Department of Health Niall Redmond said around €39m had been paid out to providers to cover additional staff costs, training and cleaning.

Co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shorthall wanted to know what arrangements were in place for staff who might be diagnosed with the coronavirus, particularly those who, she said, the expert panel report had outlined were living in congregated settings.

Sandra Tuohy, Assistant National Director, Services for Older People with the HSE, said it was continuing to provide hotel accommodation for 'hundreds' of staff and will continue to do so while meeting the full cost of that.

Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North West Paul McAuliffe asked about nursing homes visits can continue if the Government level for living with Covid-19 was extended to higher levels.

Dr MacLellan said it is dependent on local risk assessments in nursing homes and that at no point from the start of the pandemic were 'end of life' visits prohibited.

She said: "We have to try to design and promote a schedule so that visitations can continue."

Independent TD Matt Shanahan said significant reforms are needed in community care.

Dr MacLellan said it was important to look at the type of care needed and that a "standard assessment tool" for care will be rolled out by the end of this year.