PHE data shows coronavirus outbreaks in homes doubled over New Year

Care sector bosses fear vaccines are arriving too late to protect elderly residents as PHE data shows outbreaks in homes more than doubled over New Year period

  • Were 503 reports of outbreaks in care homes in England in week up to January 3
  • This was up from 304 the week before and 236 the week before that
  • A care home outbreak is classed as two or more confirmed cases
  • Figures showed only one in 10 care home residents had been vaccinated so far 
  • Nadra Ahmed, chair of National Care Association, said delays ‘not good enough’ 

Coronavirus outbreaks in care homes more than doubled in a fortnight over the New Year period, after it emerged that only ten per cent of residents had been vaccinated.

According to data from Public Health England, there were 503 reports of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes in England in the week up to January 3, up from 304 the week before.

The week before that, there were 236, meaning infections increased more than 113 per cent in two weeks. 

A care home outbreak is classed as two or more confirmed cases, meaning the number of residents being infected with the virus will be even higher.

When the first coronavirus wave as at its peak in March and April last year, the Government was heavily criticised over the way care homes were residents were left exposed to the disease – with more than 20,000 dying.

The Government’s vaccination priority list, a version of which was first published in September, puts care home residents and staff among those first in line for a jab.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted earlier this week that the vaccination plan needs to speed up as figures showed only one in 10 care home residents, and 14 per cent of staff had been vaccinated so far.

Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, said the delays were ‘not good enough’ and said the Government was ‘failing’ vulnerable care home residents. 

The new infection figures in care homes came as it emerged that care home staff have been told to go into work despite testing positive for coronavirus.

Coronavirus outbreaks in care homes more than doubled in a fortnight over the New Year period, after it emerged that only ten per cent of residents had been vaccinated

Number 10 blamed complications in getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – which needs to be stored at -70C – for the poor progress in vaccinating care home residents. 

However, it is thought the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab – which began last week – will accelerate the vaccination programme because it is easier to store and transport. 

The Department of Health said it is aiming for all care home residents to have been offered vaccines by the end of January. 

But Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, told the Telegraph that the delays were unacceptable.

She said: ‘It’s not good enough. For once we would have loved to see the statistics being ahead of the curve, rather than behind it,’ she said.

‘If we don’t do this, we are failing the vulnerable citizens in this country who are in care settings, and this will be the failure of the government to safeguard the people who are the most vulnerable.’

According to data from Public Health England, there were 503 reports of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes in England in the week up to January 3, up from 304 the week before

Adam Briggs, senior fellow at independent charity The Health Foundation, tweeted on Thursday: ‘The rise in reported care home incidents is really concerning.

‘The NHS is (rightly) all over the news but care homes cannot be neglected again.’

The Independent Care Group, which represents more than 200 providers in North Yorkshire and York, said last week it is heartening that care homes are a high priority and have been promised the vaccine by the end of the month.

Care home staff told to go to work despite testing POSITIVE for coronavirus 

Care home staff have been told to go into work despite testing positive for coronavirus, an alarming new report revealed on Friday.

In the past fortnight inspectors have flagged more than a dozen care homes over problems with infection control.

The Care Quality Commission reportedly warned at least 14 homes about flaws, including telling workers with Covid to work due to staff shortages, the Guardian reported.

This comes as the NHS makes plans to commandeer spare care beds across the country to help release pressure on hospitals where wards are filling up with Covid patients as the crisis escalates. 

National Care Association chairwoman Nadra Ahmed told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the sector had been receiving calls over Christmas about filling beds in nursing homes. 

But she warned: ‘There’s no way that providers can go back to April when we were told everything was OK and people were being discharged out of hospitals. 

‘Of course we want to help the NHS if we can, but we have to do that safely. 

‘The only way that can be safely done is if we’re absolutely clear that the person is no longer shedding the virus and bringing it into the care service.’ 

But chairman Mike Padgham said the Government this time needed to deliver after ‘similar promises’ which failed to materialise.

He said: ‘We have had similar promises before and we pray the Government can deliver this time. We need a dose of realism.

‘If the Government can deliver the vaccine to homes by the end of January, we want to see them do it swiftly.

‘If they can’t then they must be honest and tell us a realistic timescale. There is no time to lose.’ 

An independent House of Commons review said care homes were ‘thrown to the wolves’ by the Government when tens of thousands of hospital patients were discharged into the sector during the first wave without being tested for Covid. 

It comes as another 1,325 Covid deaths were reported on Friday – nearly one a minute – a higher figure than the peak of 1,224 in the first wave last April.   

The death toll – which has doubled in a week – takes the UK to the brink of almost 80,000 victims. 

Coronavirus infections hit a record high of 68,053.

Experts fear the daily death counts will continue to spiral because of rocketing cases and hospitalisations. 

Department of Health figures show the UK has recorded more than 50,000 cases for 11 days in a row.

It means the five worst days of the pandemic have all occurred since the start of 2021. Cases have risen by almost 30 per cent week-on-week.        

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England also stood at a record 29,346 as of 8am on Friday, up by 30 per cent from a week ago.

Hospital admissions also hit a new high with a total of 3,967 admissions in England reported for January 6, passing the previous record of 3,697 on January 5, according to NHS England figures.

In a more positive development, a third Covid-19 vaccine, from US biotech firm Moderna, was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – joining the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

But the Government has doubled down on its ‘stay at home message’ by launching a new advert, fronted by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, urging everyone in England to ‘act like you’ve got’ coronavirus.

Prof Whitty said: ‘Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

Mr Johnson added: ‘I know the last year has taken its toll – but your compliance is now more vital than ever.’

Some hospitals are approaching breaking point, and preparing to turn to care homes for help, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital had surged past 30,000 by January 4, NHS data reveals

The advertising campaign will run across TV, radio, newspapers and on social media and will feature images of patients in hospital.

Government death figures continue to be affected by a lag in the publication of recent data and will contain some deaths that took place over the Christmas and New Year period that have only just been reported.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 95,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

Scientists advising the Government believe the current lockdown may lead to a plateau of cases of coronavirus across the UK rather than the dramatic cut seen following the March and April lockdown.

They estimate there are currently more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000 which they believe puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than during the first wave of the pandemic.

With the current lockdown and vaccine rollout, deaths from coronavirus are expected to start dropping in February, while hospital admissions should fall after that.

Coronavirus cases are expected to drop in the spring due to vaccination plus the fact people spend more time outdoors, making it harder for the virus to spread.

Elsewhere, hospitals also reported increasing pressures, with more than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently having more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave.

Data shows hospitals are also seeing far more younger people than during the first wave.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ as the spread of coronavirus threatens to ‘overwhelm’ the capital’s hospitals.

City Hall said Covid-19 cases in London had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000, while there are 35 per cent more people in hospital with the virus than in the peak of the pandemic in April.

NHS England figures published later on Friday showed the number of Covid patients in London hospitals stands at 7,277, up 32 per cent on the previous week.

A ‘major incident’ means the ‘severity of the consequences’ associated with it are ‘likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident’.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) said an estimated one in 70 people in private households in Wales had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2 – the equivalent of 44,100 people, or 1.45 per cent of the population.

This compares with an estimated one in 50 people in England during the same period, which the ONS first announced on Tuesday this week.

Separate estimates by the ONS suggest around one in 115 people in private households in Scotland had Covid-19 between December 25 and 31 – the equivalent of 45,900 people or 0.87 per ent of the population.

Scotland also recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, while the number of people being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals has exceeded the April peak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that 93 virus-related deaths had been recorded in the past 24 hours – more than the previous daily high of 84.

She also said 1,530 people are currently receiving in-patient care due to Covid-19 – which is 63 more than the figure for Thursday and exceeds the peak of 1,520 recorded in April.

In Northern Ireland, an estimated one in 200 people in private households had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2, the equivalent of 9,100 people or 0.50 per cent of the population.

The approval of the Moderna jab means the UK should have three vaccines to use when it comes on stream in spring.

Elsewhere, new research published on Friday suggests the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech appears to protect against a mutation in two coronavirus variants that are causing spread across the UK.

The pharmaceutical giant and researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch carried out lab tests on the strains, one of which was found in the UK while the other originated in South Africa. 

Row erupts over NHS bid to shift Covid-19 patients to care homes again to ease burden on hospitals

  • Care homes may have to take in hospital patients again to help the NHS cope
  • Charities say the move would be even riskier now due to more infectious strain
  • Over 25,000 people were admitted to care homes from mid-March to mid-April

By Eleanor Hayward, Health Correspondent for the Daily Mail 

A furious dispute erupted last night when it emerged care homes may again have to take in hospital patients to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus crisis.

Campaigners warn this may lead to a repeat of the ‘disaster’ last spring when infectious patients were sent to care homes and tens of thousands of deaths resulted.

Charities and care leaders say they have a ‘horrible sense of déjà-vu’ and it would be a ‘grave mistake’. But NHS bosses say they are running out of beds due to soaring virus admissions and desperately need to offload patients to the care sector.

‘We are now reaching the point where hospital beds are full, community beds are full, and community at-home services are also full,’ said Chris Hopson, head of NHS Providers. What trust leaders are now trying to do is [use] spare capacity in the care and nursing home sector.

NHS bosses say they are running out of beds due to soaring virus admissions and desperately need to offload patients to the care sector (Pictured: Staff in an intensive care ward in St George’s Hospital in London)

‘They are in the middle of conversations with their care and nursing home colleagues to see if they can access that capacity.’ 

Mr Hopson said care homes were better placed to accept patients than Nightingale hospitals because they had more staff. He called on the Government to create financial incentives for care homes to take NHS patients.

He added: ‘There is, of course, no question of using this capacity for patients who could introduce Covid-19 infection risk into care homes or for patients requiring complex or specialist hospital care.’

Campaign groups are furious that the NHS is willing to ‘repeat its mistake’. Over 25,000 people were admitted to care homes from mid-March to mid-April as hospitals scrambled to clear beds for Covid patients.

As many as 16,000 were not tested, so the virus was seeded into care homes where it could rip through elderly and vulnerable residents. There were more than 400 Covid-19 care homes deaths per day at the peak.

Care leaders say the move would be even riskier now thanks to the new, more infectious, strain. 

Fiona Carragher of the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘There’s a horrible sense of déjà-vu – the Government must ensure everyone receives a negative covid test before being discharged, something Alzheimer’s Society called for from the start.’

Charities and care leaders say the move would be a ‘grave mistake’ and would be even riskier now due to more infectious strain. (Pictured: Ellen Prosser, known as Nell, who is 100 years old, receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the Sunrise Care Home in Sidcup, Britain on Jan 7)

Diane Mayhew of campaign group Rights for Residents said: ‘It is awful that hospitals are full to capacity but this is not the answer. There could be a repeat of the disaster in the spring. As relatives we are unable to get into care homes to see our loved ones in order to ‘protect’ them – so it beggars belief that patients are being allowed in again.’

But Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: ‘If a care home has space and is confident that it can look after a discharged patient safely and get the medical back-up – then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t take them.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘No care home should be forced to admit an existing or new resident if they do not feel they can provide the appropriate care.

We are putting in place designated care home or NHS community settings that can provide covid-positive residents with the care and support they need while protecting other vulnerable residents.’

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