Downing Street has rejected calls for the Prime Minister to apologise after he said that “too many care homes didn’t really follow procedures” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Labour Party has referred to Boris Johnson’s comments as “crass” and said that his government advice to the care home sector had been “conflicting” throughout the coronavirus crisis.
This comes after the President of the Royal Society has said that refusing to wear a mask in public during the COVID-19 pandemic should become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving or not wearing a seatbelt.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson added that the care homes in the UK had “done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances” and went on to say that the government had “put in place rigorous testing and additional funding”.
Care homes have been hit particularly badly by the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly 20,000 people confirmed to have died as a result of the coronavirus in care homes within England and Wales since the outbreak began in the countries.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, has said that people were “insulted” by the Prime Minister’s “crass remarks”.
“Care providers were sent conflicting guidance throughout this outbreak, staff could not access testing until mid-April and are still not tested routinely, PPE supplies have been inadequate, thousands of families have lost their loved ones in care homes to this disease, care workers themselves have died on the front line,” he told MPs.
Ashworth called upon the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to apologise for his leader’s remarks.
At least three different establishments in England announced that they were closing, following cases of the coronavirus, just days after the ‘Super Saturday’ re-openings that were permitted on the weekend.
Mr Hancock said the prime minister had been “explaining that because asymptomatic transmission was not known about, the correct procedures were therefore not known”.
“We’ve been constantly learning about this virus from the start and improving procedures all the way through and I pay tribute to the care homes in this country who have done so much to care for the most vulnerable throughout the crisis.”
Unison, a trade union which represents workers providing public services, said: “It’s despicable for Boris Johnson to blame incredible, dedicated care workers for his own government’s failings.
“Care staff have kept working throughout to help the vulnerable, putting their own health at risk with little or no protective kit and without testing.
“The prime minister should be ashamed, take responsibility and commit to proper, lasting reform of social care.”
The large-scale national effort on PPE was focused on the NHS, leaving some care homes in the nation severely lacking in the necessary equipment to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as their supply chains for PPE dried up or could not cope with the demand.
The roll-out of testing within the countries care homes was staggeringly slow, and it is only now that residents and staff are able to get regular testing, which is vital if those who are infected but asymptomatic are to be found.