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Coronavirus: Matt Hancock claims success in care homes because they 'only' make up a quarter of all deaths

'That’s much lower than most international comparators', health secretary insists - denying residents and staff have been 'let down' 

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 12 May 2020 09:44 BST
Matt Hancock claims success in care homes because they 'only' make up a quarter of all deaths

Matt Hancock has claimed that coronavirus has been tackled successfully in care homes, because they have seen “only a quarter” of total deaths.

The health secretary denied residents and staff had been “let down” – after widespread shortages of tests and equipment – saying: “No, I think that that is really unfair.”

The claim came as Mr Hancock also denied criticism of public confusion over the easing of lockdown restrictions, after Dominic Raab issued the wrong advice on meeting people.

Tackled about staff being told by Boris Johnson to prepare to return to work on Monday – a date then put back to Wednesday – he said “things are fine” if that is the biggest complaint put forward.

The crisis in care homes has been blamed for the ‘R’ reproduction rate rising and Boris Johnson himself there was still “an epidemic” in those settings last week.

But Mr Hancock said: “Some of the most vulnerable people live in care homes, yet only around a quarter of the deaths that have happened have been in care homes.

“That’s much lower than most international comparators.”

He told BBC Radio 4 Today’s programme that measures to keep people apart and to crack down in infections had begun in care homes earlier than in the general community.

“I think the fact that, among people who work in the NHS, no more people have died than in the general population, I think that is a testament to how the NHS has performed.

“In almost all epidemics like this, it is doctors and nurses who tend to bear the brunt and so far, in this epidemic, in this country, there has been no higher death rate among healthcare workers. I think that is a really good thing.”

The strong defence of performance in care homes will be controversial, coming just days after more than 600 new homes reported an outbreak in just seven days.

Documents released by the Sage advisory committee appeared to reveal there was no consideration of the likely crisis, or how to support care providers, in the run-up to the UK entering lockdown.

They discussed at length the risks to the NHS and the lack of hospital beds as well as the need to introduce social distancing measures. But there was no detailed assessment of what should be done for care homes.

The health secretary strongly dismissed claims that the easing of the lockdown has been a shambles, saying: “The truth is that people really understand the message, people understand what ‘Stay Alert’ means.

“People understand that together we need to control the virus, and make sure people follow the social distancing rules.”

Defending people only being able to see one parents from outside their household at a time, he added: “What we don't want is large groups of people gathering and you have to make a judgment to what is reasonable and where to set the rules.

"It is perfectly reasonable to have a rule that only one individual can meet up with one other, at that two-metre distance, and outside is safer than inside because the science is clear.”​

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