The Commissioner for Older People Eddie Lynch said:“I am deeply concerned about the situation in Clifton Nursing Home in North Belfast.

“I have received briefings from health authorities on what has led to this drastic action and, more importantly, what is being done now to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the residents in the home.

“I am sure that this decision has not been taken lightly, as we know that moving older people from a care home setting is always a measure of last resort. It is also one that will cause upset and distress to residents and their families.

“The immediate focus has to be on doing what is best for the residents in the home. Communication with families is of the utmost importance at this time. Families must be provided with clear details of the situation and be involved in any decision made to move their loved one from the home.

“It is important that the authorities working on this critical situation are given the space to resolve the situation. The questions about why this action has had to be taken in the first place are important and will have to be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity once residents have been cared for.

“This is a home that has suffered a Covid-19 outbreak and the fact that residents may have either had or been exposed to the virus has to be a key factor that must be considered if they are to be relocated to another setting. The authorities must make sure that in tackling one serious situation they don’t take any steps that could increase the risk to older people living in other care homes.

“This is a deeply distressing situation for residents who have considered Clifton Nursing Home their home for a long time, and their families who have already been physically distanced from their loved ones for many weeks. To receive this news must be heart breaking and everything must be done to support them during the difficult days ahead.”