Boris Johnson Faces New Questions About Covid-19 in English Care Homes

The scale of coronavirus infections in English care homes was laid bare on Friday, adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his handling of the pandemic.

A survey of more than 9,000 institutions found that 56% had at least one confirmed case of Covid-19 since the outbreak began, according to the Office for National Statistics. In total, 11% of all care-home residents tested positive for the disease, almost double the rate in the community as a whole.

The government has come under fire for its failure to shield vulnerable people in care homes, with the ONS now estimating that over 19,000 residents in England and Wales died from the virus as of June 12. In the initial stages of the outbreak, some hospitalized residents were discharged into the facilities without a negative test to show they weren’t carrying the disease.

Speaking on LBC Radio on Friday, Johnson described the significant loss of life in care homes as “absolutely tragic” and promised a “proper examination.”

“Far too many lives were lost in care homes and we mourn for everyone,” he said. “I bitterly, bitterly regret every single loss of life that we’ve had. Whether an earlier lockdown would have made the crucial difference is something we will have to look at.”

Staff working arrangements also influenced levels of infection. Those that employed more workers from agencies, or had staff working across multiple sites, showed a greater spread of the virus. There was also evidence that care homes that provide sick pay had lower levels of infection, as staff were more likely to take time off work.

In care homes where managers reported at least one case of coronavirus, an estimated 20% of residents and 7% of staff tested positive for Covid-19, according to the study, which cautioned that infection rates may have been affected by underlying health conditions more common in older people including dementia and alzheimer disease.

The findings may underestimate the levels of infection due to some cases not being confirmed by diagnostic test.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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