A minister said the government could pin the blame on scientific advisers for ministers’ handling of the coronavirus in care homes, before quickly rowing back.
Health minister Helen Whately was challenged over the effect of COVID-19 in adult social care during an interview with Sky News.
She told Kay Burley@Breakfast that there was guidance for care homes “very early” in the coronavirus pandemic.
“At all points in this we follow the scientific guidance as to what is the right thing to do,” Ms Whately added.
When it was put to the minister that “you can’t stick this on the scientists”, she replied: “Well, I can.”
New figures sent in by civil registries show an additional 12,000 fatalities in Catalonia, the Madrid region and Castilla-La Mancha
Between March 1 and May 12, Spain recorded 43,295 more deaths than what would be considered normal for this time of the year, based on past mortality rates. This is up 52% from the expected deaths for the period.
The figure includes 27,302 confirmed fatalities from Covid-19, but there are an additional 15,993 deaths that show up on civil registries but are not recorded as coronavirus victims, even though many of them probably are.
On Wednesday, a system update with new data sent in by civil registries turned up 12,000 more excess deaths than were previously known. Of these, 7,300 were in Catalonia (mostly in Barcelona), 2,500 in the Madrid region and 800 in Castilla-La Mancha.
England has reported the lowest rate of COVID-19 deaths per total fatalities in a study of European nations.
The study by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) provides some welcome relief to the UK government which has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the care home crisis.
The research, using ONS data as of May 9, shows there were almost 7,000 COVID-19 care home fatalities in England, amounting to 21% of 33,000 fatalities. Wales reported a higher rate of 25%, while care home COVID-19 death rates in Scotland amounted to 45% of 3,200 COVID-19 fatalities as of May 10.
Elsewhere, the share of care home fatalities per total ranged from 37% in Germany to 66% in Spain, which had seen 18,000 deaths officially reported in care facilities as of May 11.
Rates were also high in France (50%) which reported more than 13,500 COVID-19 care home deaths as of May 11, Belgium (51%), Norway (61%) and Stockholm, Sweden (45%). Italy, which has Europe’s second highest overall fatality rate after the UK, was not included in the research.
While the European comparison favoured England, it should be borne in mind that the ONS is generally accepted to be underreporting the true number of care home fatalities with the latest estimates suggesting that the ‘real’ death number of deaths is more than double their figure.
The UK passed another grim milestone yesterday: the official death toll exceeded Italy’s, making ours the highest in Europe.
But experts warn we should be extremely careful about assuming that these figures are directly comparable between countries – and it could be some time before we know whether the UK really has suffered more fatalities than other nations.