Coronavirus linked to quarter of all deaths in care homes, official data shows

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Medical workers clean an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital, one of the many hospitals dealing with Coronavirus patients in London, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
The latest care home figures on COVID-19 related deaths have been released. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

More than a quarter of all care home deaths since the start of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak involved COVID-19, new data shows.

It was involved in 27.3% of all deaths of England and Wales’s care home residents between 2 March and 1 May, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - a total of 12,526 fatalities.

The respiratory disease, caused by coronavirus infection, has become the leading cause of death in male care home residents, accounting for 30.3% of deaths.

COVID-19 was the second biggest cause of death for female residents, accounting for 23.5%, the figures released on Friday show, after dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The data also shows that since March there has been a rise in both deaths involving COVID-19 and deaths not involving the disease among care home residents.

Between 28 December 2019 and 1 May, 73,180 deaths took place in England and Wales care homes – 23,136 more than in the same period last year.

With COVID-19 being involved in 12,526 fatalities, 17.1% involved the coronavirus this year.

New ONS data shows the dramatic rise in care home deaths this year. (ONS)
New ONS data shows the dramatic rise in care home deaths this year. (ONS)

The ONS has also said that of those care home residents whose death involved COVID-19, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the most common main pre-existing condition found.

It was involved in 42.5% of COVID-19 deaths in residents.

The statistics follow a dispute between the prime minister and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over whether the government previously said the virus was unlikely to spread in care homes.

Boris Johnson denied the government ever issued the advice, though it was still online this week, and under advice for face mask wearing it says “it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected”.

However, the PM’s spokesperson said Starmer had “inaccurately and selectively quoted from the Public Health England guidance”, withdrawn in March.

The text also said the guidance “is intended for the current position (in February) in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community”.

However, a paper dated to February 10 from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which advises the Department of Health, said there was a “realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will be become established in the coming weeks”.

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