The health ministry on Saturday laid down strict guidelines for elderly care homes after concerns were expressed residents were at greater risk.
Some homes banned all visits as soon as the first cases of coronavirus were recorded on the island on March 9, with the rest following their example when directions were issues by the welfare services on March 16.
Relatives of the residents have said however that banning visits was not sufficient to protect the health of their loved ones when they could also be endangered by staff. There have been numerous international examples of mass deaths at care homes since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Cyprus has around 6,000 elderly people residing in nursing homes.
The health ministry on Saturday said that because those in care homes usually have underlying conditions, they were even more vulnerable if infected with the virus.
“Therefore, it is necessary to systematically and strictly apply precautions and measures in order to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus,” the ministry said.
Workers at the homes and external partners, the ministry said, will need to take their temperature daily before going to work, and wear a surgical mask throughout their shifts. If they have symptoms of the virus, they will need to be suspended and go into self-isolation.
The ministry said the care homes will also need to disinfect premises, ventilate rooms, and be tested periodically – both staff and residents.
As part of the measures, visitation will be forbidden in most cases, and family members will be informed about the health of individual residents over the phone.
Visitation will only be allowed if a resident is critically ill, excepting those with any respiratory issues. Visitors will also be called to clean their hands and wear masks.
Residents of the home must also have their temperatures taken daily. Activities such as exercise, group activities are to be suspended, the ministry said.
The resident must also avoid eating at communal tables, taking their meals in their rooms instead.
Only doctors and other healthcare professionals will be allowed to see them.
In the case of a resident with symptoms, all protocols against the spread of the virus should be applied.
If the infected person does not have serious symptoms and they are allowed to remain at the care home, they will be confined to a bedroom, with a toilet and wear a mask during the isolation period.
Workers monitoring such individuals will also need to take protective measures.
The ministry added each room at the care home should have hand sanitizer, liquid soap in the bathrooms, paper towels, and foot-pedal waste bins.