Despite outbreaks continuing to worsen in care homes, George Eustice, the environment secretary, defended the government’s handling of the crisis for older people, while acknowledging its approach had not been “perfect”.
The death toll from COVID-19 in care homes is to be announced on a daily basis after figures this week revealed a sharp rise of more than 4,300 deaths in a fortnight in England and Wales and care operators said they were at the centre of the crisis.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said on Wednesday that he thought there may be at least as many deaths in care homes and the community as in hospitals. “I would push my neck out that it is plausible that there are now as many Covid-labelled deaths occurring out of hospital as there are in hospitals in England,” he said.
Asked whether the risk of spread in care homes had been overlooked, Eustice told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t accept it was overlooked but obviously there was a real focus on the NHS because there were concerns it might be overwhelmed.
“But in the case of care homes we’ve always recognised there was more vulnerability there and that residents were more susceptible to this virus. That is why a lot of things were done in making sure they could get some PPE – we all know there have been challenges with PPE.”