A minister was forced to defend Boris Johnson this morning after his comments over care homes sparked fury.
The Prime Minister has been criticised for saying "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus outbreak.
Care leaders and MPs have accused Mr Johnson of attempting to shift the blame for the high death toll.
Mark Adams, chief executive of charity Community Integrated Care, described the Prime Minister's comments as “clumsy and cowardly”.
Mr Johnson was responding to the head of NHS England's call for reform in social care within a year.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma defended the comments, telling BBC Breakfast: “Care homes have done a brilliant job throughout this pandemic in terms of dealing with the whole issue around the coronavirus.
“What the Prime Minister was pointing out is that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because we know that the extent of the asymptomatic cases was not known at the time."
He continued: “What we did do was to step forward, provide very detailed guidance, provided extra funding – the £600 million that went in specifically for dealing with infection in care homes.
“We then had a testing regime from April everyone in a care home setting was able to be tested. We have done our best to put our arms around the care home sector. Every single death is a tragedy.
“We’ve been learning throughout this whole process as the Prime Minister said and we will continue to do so and make improvements.”
Pressed again on the PM’s comments Mr Sharma said “As the Prime Minister made very clear. The correct procedures weren’t actually known at the time that’s why we set out very detailed guidance…”
The latest Office for National Statistics figures reveal that almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019.
On a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, Mr Johnson said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.
“Most important is to fund them properly…but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.”
Mr Adams told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think this at best was clumsy and cowardly but to be honest with you, if this is genuinely his view, I think we're almost entering an... alternative reality where the Government set the rules, we follow them and they don't like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best.
"It is hugely frustrating."
Labour’s David Lammy Tweeted this morning: “Inexcusable to try and shift the blame onto care homes and their workers.
“The government was too slow to provide the right guidance, too slow on PPE and too slow on testing.
“The least Boris Johnson could do is take responsibility for the mistakes his government made.”