Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading the House of Commons about government advice that people in care homes were “very unlikely” to contract coronavirus.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the prime minister urging him to return to the House of Commons to “recognise” that this had been government advice earlier this year.
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Sir Keir highlighted official figures that showed deaths in care homes made up more than 40% of the overall number of recent COVID-19 deaths.
The Labour leader told MPs: “Earlier this year, and until 12 March, the government’s own official advice was, and I’m quoting from it, ‘it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected’.”
Sir Keir urged Mr Johnson, who today announced a further £600m for infection control in care homes, to “accept that the government was too slow to protect people in care homes”.
The prime minister replied that it “wasn’t true that the advice said that” and added: “We brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown.”
Labour sources later circulated a link to a government webpage, which relates to “guidance for social or community care and residential settings on COVID-19”.
The guidance was published on 25 February and was “withdrawn on 13 March”, the webpage states.
Under a section on face masks, the guidance states: “It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.”
Sir Keir wrote to the prime minister following their PMQs exchanges.
“At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that government ministers are accurate in the information they give,” the Labour leader wrote.
“Given this, I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official government guidance regarding care homes.”
Earlier in the House of Commons, Sir Keir had also drawn attention to Office for National Statistics’ figures on deaths.
“This year the number of deaths in care homes for April was a staggering 26,000 – that’s three times the average – 18,000 additional deaths this April,” he told MPs.
“Using the government’s figures only 8,000 are recorded as COVID-19 deaths, that leaves 10,000 additional and unexplained care home deaths this April.
“Now I know the government must have looked into this so can the prime minister give us the government’s views on these unexplained deaths?”
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