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PM challenged over care home deaths.


Boris Johnson must account for official figures showing 10,000 "unexplained" deaths in care homes in April, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the House of Commons.

Sir Keir said there were 18,000 more deaths in April than the average for that month, but only 8,000 were recorded as coronavirus-related and added that the government had been "too slow to protect people in care homes."

Mr Johnson said there was much more to do but the government was making progress on reducing the pandemic in care homes.

He announced a further £600m to fight infections in care homes in England. The money will be issued through local councils to help improve infection control by measures such as reducing staff rotation between homes; increasing testing and ensuring small independent homes have access to expert advice.

Mr Johnson and Sir Keir also clashed at Prime Minister's Questions over government advice at the start of the pandemic.

Sir Keir said that up until 12 March care homes were being told it was "very unlikely" anyone would become infected, a point that the prime minister denied.

After the session, Sir Keir wrote to the PM after  accusing him of misleading MPs and asking him to return to the Commons to correct the record.

In his letter the Labour leader said: "At this time of national crisis it is more important than ever that government ministers are accurate in the information they give

"I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record."

But in response, Mr Johnson’s letter accused Sir Keir of neglecting to provide the context of the guidance.

He said he stood by his comments and accused the Labour leader of "selectively and misleadingly" quoting guidance from Public Health England.

Mr Johnson added that he had sought engagement and consultation with opposition parties and added: "The public expect us to work together.”

The guidance at the centre of the political row was issued on 25 February and withdrawn on 13 March, a time when the virus was not thought to be spreading in the community.

It said: "This guidance is intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

“It is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected. There is no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present.”

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Johnson said the government had brought in the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown but that there was "unquestionably an appalling epidemic" in that setting.

He added that the number of deaths in care homes had been "too high", but that the number of outbreaks had fallen and the number of fatalities had significantly reduced.

Sir Keir pointed to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that showed at least 40% of Covid-19 deaths in England and Wales were in care homes.

And he quoted a cardiologist who had told the Daily Telegraph that hospitals had "actively seeded" the virus into the "most vulnerable" population by discharging "known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes."

Mr Johnson said: "The number of discharges from hospitals into care homes went down in March and April and we had a system of testing people going into care homes and that testing is now being ramped up."