There have been 92 new coronavirus outbreaks in care homes across Britain in the last 24 hours, the government has warned.
Speaking at a regular news conference on Monday Sir Patrick Vallance, the UKs chief scientific adviser, said around 13 per cent of such homes had been affected in total so far.
The news is particularly worrying because medical advice suggests that people over 70 years of age and with certain pre-existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable to developing serious Covid-19 symptoms.
Labour called for daily figures to be published of people dying in care homes so that the “true scale” of the problem could become clear. The government is also expected to push for increased testing in care homes.
“On care homes, at the moment, the total number cumulatively across the whole country is around 13.5 per cent overall. In the last 24 hours, there have been 92 care homes where an outbreak has been detected,” Sir Patrick told the press conference.
“In terms of testing, if an outbreak is suspected, then the public health authorities will go in and do testing to assess whether an outbreak has occurred and that is going on all the time and has gone on through this.
“That allows care home staff who are absolutely fantastic and are doing a very difficult job, you know, for the benefit of the people who live with them. They can then isolate people who are symptomatic and try to make sure this does not spread through the care home.”
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said he would like to see coronavirus testing increased in care homes.
Asked if deaths were recorded properly in such settings, he said: “Everybody who sadly dies, the doctor will make an assessment based on her or his view about what the cause of death is, thats what the death certificate says in all cases.”
He added: “Doctors take it very seriously and try to make sure that they get as much information to give accurate data.
“One of the things we want to do is to extend the amount of testing of people in care homes as the ability to test ramps up over the next few weeks.
“Because clearly care homes are one of the areas where there are large numbers of vulnerable people and that is an area of risk and therefore we would very much… like to have much more extensive testing.”
The latest figures releaaed today suggest another 717 coronvirus patients died in UK hospitals, taking the total to 11,329.
Liz Kendall, Labours shadow minister for social care, said: “Todays press conference has exposed the growing crisis in our care homes because of coronavirus.
“Ministers must publish daily figures of deaths in care homes so we know the true scale of the problem and how fast it is spreading. They must also ensure social care has the resources it needs and that vital PPE and testing get to care workers on the frontline.”
Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson said workers in care homes and the NHS needed “to be provided with adequate personal protective equipment as well as tests to diagnose if they have the virus”.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the prime minister, told the press conference: “We understand the importance of getting PPE to the frontline whether its in care homes or the NHS.
“I think the strongest practical reassurance they will want and that we can give them is that over the Bank Holiday weekend over 16 million items were delivered and we are straining every sinew to roll them out even further and even faster.”