SAGE graph suggests teachers are at very low risk of catching coronavirus from kids – The Sun

A GRAPH from the Government's top scientists has revealed teachers are at a very low risk of catching coronavirus from children.

The data drop from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) comes as Government ministers try to assure parents and teachers it is safe for kids to head back to schools.

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The graph suggests that children are much less likely to pass the virus on to others even if they do catch it.

It comes alongside an evidence review used by UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health Professor Russell Viner looking at studies from Australian schools suggesting the chances of children passing on the virus were very unlikely.

The evidence in a document released by Downing street today said: "In primary school 6 cases resulted in 168 contacts and in one potential child contracting disease.

"In high schools, 12 cases had 695 contacts; ⅓ had contacts, all of which were negative.

"75 high school contacts had (antibody tests) 1 month after contact, with 1 student only (and no staff) having antibodies suggestive of infection."

But the documents also stressed that evidence on children transmitting the disease was inconclusive.

They said: "Evidence remains inconclusive on both the susceptibility and infectivity of children, but the balance of evidence suggests that both may be lower than in adults."

The documents also warned the impact lockdown was having on kids was causing a "shock" that would affect their work prospects for the rest of their lives.

Hardline teachers unions are in the middle of an almighty row with the Government over the reopening of schools on June 1, and have issued a 169 point checklist that must be fulfilled before teachers will go back to their posts.

The Joint Secretary of the National Education Union Dr Mary Bousted claimed the findings showed the planned return was “too soon”.

She said: “We think it’s just descending into chaos now and it’s not funny.

“The evidence is still not there, we now have the Independent Sage Committee saying give it two weeks then we’ll have half as much chance of catching the virus.

“This is just really confusing for parents, it’s very difficult for school leavers having to make decisions on inadequate scientific evidence.”

Only a handful of councils plan to reopen schools on June 1, leaving parents across the country in the dark over their children's education.

The final decision on whether or not to open up classrooms will fall to headteachers.

Analysis by The Sun showed at least 28 local authorities – which govern 2,269 primary schools – are preparing to defy Government advice and not reopen schools.

The information released by Sage runs contrary to a report released by a rival group of experts – the Independent Sage group – who said pushing the reopening of schools back by just two weeks would halve the risk to children. 

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Poll suggests four in 10 care homes have coronavirus cases

How many elderly Britons in care homes have REALLY been infected with coronavirus? Poll of care workers claims figure is around 40% – despite Number 10’s insistence it is just 15%

  • Nationwide poll of 2,800 carers found 42% are looking after suspected patients
  • Additional 28% said they were dealing with residents who’d been diagnosed
  • Suggests the care home crisis is deeper than the Government is willing to admit
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

More than 40 per cent of nursing homes may have cases of coronavirus, a nationwide poll of thousands of carers suggests. 

Of 2,800 carers surveyed, a shocking 42 per cent said they were looking after residents who were suspected of having the killer infection. 

An additional 28 per cent said they were dealing with patients who had officially been diagnosed. 

Almost half (44 per cent) of care workers said they knew of a colleague who had suspected coronavirus. 

It provides the biggest snapshot yet of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector and suggests the care home crisis is deeper than the Government is willing to admit.

Number 10 insists that just 15 per cent of nursing homes have been plagued with two or more coronavirus cases.

Of 2,800 carers surveyed, a shocking 42 per cent said they were looking after residents who were suspected of having the killer infection

The survey, conducted by ITV News and the job board carehome.co.uk, also found eight out of 10 carers have not had access to testing themselves.

CARE HOME RESIDENTS SAY THEY ARE BEING ASKED TO SIGN LETTERS AGREEING TO NOT BE TAKEN TO HOSPITAL IF THEY GET COVID-19

Care home residents say they are being asked to sign letters agreeing to not be taken to hospital if they become ill the coronavirus.

Elderly people are being asked to sign the agreements en masse as hospitals come under intense pressure from thousands of patients with the infectious disease.

People over the age of 80 are known to be the most at risk of dying if they catch COVID-19 and account for 52 per cent of all the fatalities in England so far.

And the NHS has admitted that life-support machines could have to be prioritised for younger or healthier patients if an overloaded hospital is left with a 50/50 choice. 

One woman living in a care home in Wiltshire, Elizabeth Diacon, 97, said she and ‘several friends’ were asked to sign the letters but claims she did not feel pressured.

‘I’m not afraid of dying but I’m rather afraid of how I might die,’ Ms Diacon said. ‘I’d rather do it here than go to hospital.’  

Three quarters reported no access to testing for their residents.  

Almost all (94 per cent) of those asked felt that the government should be doing more to test clients and staff in care homes.

Access to personal protective equipment, or PPE , was also of concern to respondents. 

Half said they had not received sufficient quantities of PPE, whilst 59 per cent felt the PPE they received was not safe or did not offer the necessary levels of protection. 

Eighty-three per cent of carers said they were worried about transmitting COVID-19 to their family after working in the homes.  

Mental health was also of concern, with a third saying they need more support with their mental health due to what they are experiencing.

The finding that more than 40 per cent of care homes comes after Scotland’s First Minister admitted a similar figure North of the Border.

Mrs Sturgeon said 433 care homes – about 40 per cent of all those in Scotland – had now reported cases of the virus. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s view of the care home situation has been in stark contrast to what care providers have said.  

Mr Hancock said on Thursday that 15 per cent of care homes had two or more cases of the virus – one in seven.

He appeared to deny claims made by the care home executives that up to two thirds of all care homes have outbreaks when asked about the validity of claims on Good Morning Britain.

He described the 15 per cent figure as ‘robust’ and said Number 10 has ‘high confidence’ in it. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s view of the care home situation has been in stark contrast to what care providers have said. He appeared to deny claims that up to two thirds of all care homes have outbreaks when asked about the validity of claims on Good Morning Britain on Thursday (pictured) and described the 15 per cent figure as ‘robust’

A visitors’ notice stating cases of COVID-19 within Coplands Nursing Home in Wembley, northwest London

QUARTER OF ALL CORONAVIRUS DEATHS IN SCOTLAND OCCUR IN A CARE HOME 

Official figures revealed yesterday a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have been in care homes. 

Data from the National Records of Scotland showed 962 people diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19 had died.

Of those, 237 (24.6 per cent) were in care homes, 586 in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in an undisclosed location.

The figure was five times higher than the 5 per cent number given by the Office for National Statistics, which collates data in England and Wales.

Government experts found 217 of 3,700 deaths had been recorded in care homes across the two nations registered up until April 3. 

The ONS statistics also showed that another 5 per cent of deaths had been recorded outside of hospitals, such as in hospices. 

Separate figures showed the true number of deaths was 52 per cent higher than the count given by the Department of Health every day.

The ONS counted 5,979 deaths in England by April 3, compared to the 3,939 figure given by health chiefs on the same day – a difference of around 2,000. 

The Department of Health figures are affected by a backlog in hospital recordings, meaning that hundreds of deaths are not registered to be counted. 

About 5,300 care home residents in the UK have died from coronavirus, it was predicted last night. 

Healthcare analysts LaingBuisson surveyed groups representing 13 per cent of UK care homes. They suggest up to 28 per cent of coronavirus deaths in the UK may have occurred in care homes. 

The first comprehensive survey of the sector experts found that 1.4 per cent of older residents in social care have died outside hospital due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus as of April 15.

By extrapolation, there have been an estimated 5,300 deaths in total. The shocking figure is higher than the Daily Mail revealed it to be earlier this week.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a quarter of all coronavirus deaths in Scotland have been in care homes, according to official data.

The National Records of Scotland showed 962 people diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19 had died.

Of those, 237 (24.6 per cent) were in care homes, 586 in hospitals, 128 in homes and one in an undisclosed location.

The figure was five times higher than the 5 per cent number given by the Office for National Statistics, which collates data in England and Wales.

Government experts found 217 of 3,700 deaths had been recorded in care homes across the two nations registered up until April 3.

The true toll across the UK is expected to be higher. It’s been claimed doctors are told they do not have to declare COVID-19 on death certificates. 

Leaked hospital guidance – obtained by not-for-profit organisation the Good Law Project – tells medics filling in death certificates that ‘pneumonia or community acquired pneumonia are acceptable’ to put as the direct cause of death.

It states Covid-19 may be mentioned in another area of the form relating to indirect causes of death ‘should the doctor wish’.

Industry bosses have also relayed fears the killer disease may have struck three quarters of Britain’s care homes, amid growing fury over the government’s handling of the crisis.

The chief executive of one major UK provider has warned the spread of the killer infection in homes is ‘far more widespread than acknowledged’. 

CARE BOSSES HIT OUT AT ‘SHAMBOLIC’ PPE SUPPLIES IN LEAKED LETTER

A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health at the weekend has shown the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’.

It raised concerns about testing in care homes, funding for the sector, and inadequate amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, the BBC reported.

Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.

It said the situation around PPE, which is now mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.

The care sector, which looks after around 400,000 of Britain’s most vulnerable people, was being overlooked while officials focused on the NHS, Adass said as they raised fears of a ‘significant imbalance’.

The bosses added that they welcomed coronavirus swab testing for people working in social care but said it looked as it if it would be ‘rolled out without being given thought to who is going to be tested and what we are going to do with the result’.

Barchester Healthcare’s Peter Calveley revealed yesterday around half of its 236 homes in the UK have been hit by confirmed or suspected cases of the life-threatening illness.

Some 663 residents with confirmed or suspected coronavirus in 118 homes. 

He also said his company had recorded 196 deaths – two thirds of whom succumbed to the illness in the homes, and not hospitals. 

But he admitted the rate is closer to 75 per cent for some providers, adding: ‘It is far more widespread in care homes than has previously been acknowledged.’

Leaked hospital guidance – obtained by not-for-profit organisation the Good Law Project – tells medics filling in death certificates that ‘pneumonia or communityacquired pneumonia are acceptable’ to put as the direct cause of death. 

It states Covid-19 may be mentioned in another area of the form relating to indirect causes of death ‘should the doctor wish’. It means that the true death toll of the coronavirus may never be known. 

The Good Law Project said: ‘If doctors are being gently discouraged from reporting deaths as Covid-19, we have no way of knowing if the Government figures on deaths from coronavirus – the daily in hospital figures as well as the weekly Office for National Statistics figures – are accurate.’  

A whistleblower in the south east of England told Channel 4 news that even if they suspected coronavirus, some doctors were listing long-term conditions such as dementia as the cause of death.

The family doctor said: ‘I know GPs writing bronchopneumonia or frailty of old age on death certificates when they strongly suspect Covid, to avoid running into problems.’ 

They said doctors were ‘drowning in work, dealing with patients in care homes who’d been stable for years suddenly becoming unwell,’ and because of a lack of testing there was ‘high anxiety’ about what to do. 

The whistleblower added: ‘If you don’t document the cause of death as presumed Covid it’s the final insult really. 

‘The patient has died from this pandemic and their numbers are not going to be included.’ 

It came as it also emerged that guidance released by Public Health England on February 25, which has since been withdrawn, had said it was ‘very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will be infected’.

A Public Health England spokesman said: ‘The initial advice accurately reflected the situation at the time when there was no community transmission, meaning there was a limited risk of the infection getting in to a care home.

‘Once there was evidence of widespread transmission and we moved into the “delay” phase, new guidance was immediately put in place.

‘Any suggestion that we said that infections in care homes would be unlikely in the current phase of the outbreak is wrong.’

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales in the two weeks up to April 3 – 5 per cent of all coronavirus deaths during that period. 

But, the Alzheimer’s Society had previously estimated there had been at least 2,500 deaths from care homes.  

Wear gloves and a gown and you can say a last goodbye to granny: Families with loved ones dying in care homes WILL be allowed to visit in major U-turn as Matt Hancock tears up ‘blanket DNR orders’ for elderly and vulnerable

Care homes have been ordered to allow grieving relatives a last chance to say goodbye to loved-ones before they die from coronavirus amid shocking reports of elderly victims dying alone.

Matt Hancock will reportedly outline new measures to allow compassionate visits to nursing homes and outlaw the blanket use of ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) plans, which staff claim they’ve been asked to routinely sign during the crisis.

Families have complained of having to say their last goodbyes over Skype or from outside buildings as facilities do not want them to enter because of the infection risk. 

One family revealed they were forced to wave goodbye to a deceased loved one from a nursing home car park in Nottingham while the body was removed by undertakers on Easter Monday.

The loved ones of a deceased resident at Wren Hall nursing home in Mr Hancock’s intervention comes amid fears that the death toll in care homes in England and Wales is 20 times higher than the reported 217.  Industry figures say the true count is much closer 4,000 since the outbreak started.  

According to the Evening Standard, Mr Hancock will use the daily press conference this evening to say that ‘everyone has a right to say goodbye’ and that ‘wanting to be with someone you love at the end of their life is one most human instincts there is’.

Former professional footballer Cyril Lawrence, 99, passed away after catching the coronavirus at a care home in Bolton 

Carole Foster, 77, passed away last Wednesday at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, just one day after being admitted

‘Coronavirus has made this much more difficult, and I’ve heard heart-breaking stories of people dying without a loved one nearby.

 ‘We are sensitively making sure we can limit the risk of infection while giving people’s closest loved ones the chance to properly say goodbye.’

The newspaper reported that guidance has been issued saying: ‘It is unacceptable for advance care plans, including Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders, to applied in a blanket fashion to any group of people, and the CQC have been urgently contacting providers where this practice has been brought to their attention. 

‘Everyone at risk of losing mental capacity or nearing the end of their life should be offered the opportunity and supported, if they wish, to develop advance care planning that make their wishes clear, and to make arrangements, such as lasting power of attorney for health and social care decisions, to put their affairs in order.’ 

The Government’s U-turn comes after a harrowing report emerged of a family having to wave goodbye to a deceased loved one from a care home car park.

Relatives watched on as the body of a resident at Wren Hall nursing home in Nottinghamshire was removed by undertakers on Easter Monday.

A lack of testing means health officials have no idea how many care home residents are dying to the virus.

Care home managers had banned families from visiting over fears they could bring the virus into homes, where it could have devastating effects on highly vulnerable elderly residents often with serious underlying health conditions.

HIDDEN EPIDEMIC OF CORONAVIRUS IN CARE HOMES MAY HAVE COST 4,000 LIVES, EXPERTS WARN 

A ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives, experts warned last night. 

They believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.

GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 

But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 

Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 

Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy. 

Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short – ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the disease ravaging their sites. 

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 

But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 

Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims.  

Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis. 

This morning it was revealed eight people have died with suspected coronavirus at Green Heys Care Home in Waterloo, Merseyside.  

The virus appears to be sweeping through nursing homes up and down the country.

Stanley Park care home in County Durham lost its 13th resident to the virus on Monday, while 12 people have died at a home in Cranhill, Glasgow.

Wren Hall nursing home in Nottinghamshire has lost 10 to the virus,  eight at another in Dumbarton – plus 13, 11 and 15 at homes in Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Luton.  

Mark Adams, chief executive officer for Community Integrated Care, which runs the home said: ‘Whilst this is a devastating number, it may have been higher had it not been for the dedicated and selfless response of our team, who have exemplified the commitment, bravery and skill, that exists within the social care workforce.’

Debbie Cholwill said her mother, who had dementia and was living in a care home, passed away on April 10 after testing positive for coronavirus

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy.

All care home residents and staff with symptoms of Covid-19 are to be tested as the Government faces a backlash over its handling of the growing crisis. 

Social Care Minister Helen Whately told BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘We have been doing everything that we can to protect those really vulnerable people living in care homes or receiving care at home.

Chris Schmid told MailOnline his great aunt Isabel Francis, 94, passed away in Fieldway care home in Mitcham, South London on Friday, April 10

‘From the moment it looked like coronavirus was coming our way… we have been working really hard to do whatever we can to protect those receiving care from this truly awful, horrible illness.’

She added it had been ‘harder to get heard’ on social care issues than for the NHS and said the Government had ‘taken huge steps to get PPE out to the care sector’.

Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short – ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the dis – ease ravaging their sites. 

Jeremy Richardson, chief executive of Four Seasons, which has 191 care homes across the UK, told the Guardian that the official figures ‘materially understated’ the crisis, adding: ‘From colleagues in the sector and in Four Seasons’ experience, it is closer to 60 per cent (infection rate).’ 

It comes after furious families today accused the Government of ‘sacrificing’ Britain’s elderly in the fight against coronavirus by discharging COVID-19 patients into care homes and signing the ‘death warrant’ of the most vulnerable in society. 

NHS hospitals have been ordered to drastically free up beds, meaning thousands of patients have been released, with scores of elderly Britons meeting the criteria sent to care homes dotted across the UK.

TRUE DEATH TOLL COULD BE 12,000

There are no official figures on the number of care home deaths so far, but some estimates put the toll as high as 12,000. 

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says evidence from France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Ire – land suggests between 4 2 per cent and 57 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths happen in care homes. 

There have been 1 2,000 deaths officially in the UK so far, according to Government figures which only cover hospitals. 

It could mean there have been another 1 2,000 in care homes. The Office for National Statistics puts the number at only 217 but its figures are 11 days out of date at a time when the death rate has risen dramatically. 

Care England, which represents independent care providers, and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey both estimate the toll to be at least 1,000. 

The Mail’s own audit has found 951 deaths, but many care homes have declined to give figures. The Alzheimer’s Society estimates there have been 2,500 deaths

In a revolt against the ‘dangerous’ drive, some care homes have already refused to accept patients over coronavirus fears – not everyone is swabbed for the killer virus before they are discharged from hospital.  

But one home in Essex was allegedly forced to accept an elderly COVID-19 patient ‘against their wishes’ before they were re-admitted to hospital the next day. The daughter of a 96-year-old resident accused Number 10 of ‘recklessly exposing’ others to the infection. 

In Herefordshire, a dementia-stricken 78-year-old was discharged from hospital to a care home, without her family being told. She also had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice along with the orders not to send back to hospital if she caught coronavirus.

Mark Gordon fears his mother Susan (above), a 76-year-old terminally-ill cancer patient, is too weak to fight off coronavirus after contracting the infection while at a Tayside care home. He claims staff did not use PPE when dealing with patients

Demanding action from Downing Street, her daughter said: ‘My mother has worked all her life and paid into the NHS they do not have the right to sign her death warrant because she’s old and has dementia.’

Despite hospitals being told to free up space, it was revealed last night that London’s Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre sat almost empty with just 19 coronavirus patients treated over the Easter weekend.  

George Hillhouse’s 74-year-old mother, Helen Smith, died at Almond Court care home in Drumchapel, Glasgow, on Saturday

It comes after care industry bosses yesterday suggested that two thirds of all homes across Britain have recorded coronavirus cases. Around 500,000 people are in care homes in the UK.

Grim statistics released yesterday also showed the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes rose ten-fold by the start of April, up from just 20 for the week ending March 27.

But the true scale of the coronavirus catastrophe in Britain’s care homes is a mystery because the figures released by the Office for National Statistics are almost two weeks out-of-date.  

Number 10 is under mounting pressure to start recording all coronavirus deaths, wherever they happen, amid the accusations the true toll is being swept under the carpet.

The UK’s care home regulator, the Care Quality Commission, announced it would step in to collect daily numbers of coronavirus deaths. 

Helen Buniak revealed her 96-year-old mother’s home was ‘ordered’ to admit a coronavirus patient from hospital ‘against their wishes’ on April 8.

She alleged that the Birchwood Residential Care Home, in Ilford, was told it was ‘Government policy’.

The discharged patient only stayed in the facility for one day before they were re-admitted to hospital, Ms Buniak claimed. 

She told MailOnline: ‘How shocking and completely reckless to allow the virus to enter into a care home that was clear of the virus.

‘However much the staff did their best to isolate the patient, there is still a serious risk that the virus could spread and cause multiple deaths.’ 

Ms Buniak said it seemed like the lives of older people in care homes are ‘invisible’ and argued: ‘The Government is willing to sacrifice them.’ 

‘The Government’s so called policy to shield those most vulnerable clearly does not apply to the elderly in care homes.’

The Birchwood care home, which looks after around 40 elderly patients, is one of dozens to have limited routine visits from family members.  

Another MailOnline reader revealed her elderly dementia-stricken mother was discharged to a care home, without checking with her. 

LONDON’S NEW MAKE-SHIFT HOSPITAL HAD JUST 19 PATIENTS OVER EASTER 

A hospital bed and respirator at ExCel London

London’s Nightingale Hospital sat almost empty with just 19 coronavirus patients treated over the Easter weekend.

The 4,000 capacity flagship hospital was opened by Prince Charles via video link almost two weeks ago and is designed to handle a large surge in coronavirus cases.

However data circulated to health chiefs and seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) shows some hospitals have been able to double their ICU capacity, to 1,555 beds, despite rising levels of infections.

It also showed only 19 patients were receiving treatment over the Easter weekend at the facility located in the Docklands.

Her mother, of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, was stuck in hospital because health officials had yet to find a care package for her.

She told MailOnline: ‘Due to the COVID-19 outbreak most care homes in Hereford with places refused to take her so she was there a while. 

‘The hospital were getting really annoyed because they wanted her out as soon as possible and the bed freed up.

‘On Sunday (April 12) they discharged her to a care home in Worcestershire without consulting me or checking the home could meet her complex needs.’

The woman – who wanted to remain anonymous – added: ‘She arrived with a DNR, which said do not transfer back to hospital if she contracts COVID-19. 

‘My mother has worked all her life and paid into the NHS they do not have the right to sign her death warrant because she’s old and has dementia.

‘If my mum gets sick with COVID-19 she will be left to die and the hospital will refuse to admit her because the DNR will be in her notes.’ 

NHS trusts are trying to discharge patients who do not need round-the-clock care to free up capacity for the expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

But care home managers are refusing to accept elderly people over fears they might bring the virus into the homes.

Under guidance issued by the government last week, testing is not mandatory for discharged patients.

David Steedman, the manager of Arlington House care home in Sussex, admitted he had five empty rooms but refused to take in people discharged from hospitals.

He said it would be ‘madness’ to expose residents and staff to the risk of infection, the Guardian reports.

Last week the Government promised every social care provider in the country would receive deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks.

Mr Steedman told the paper: ‘The personal protective equipment issued for staff is laughable.

‘These masks, as well as having an expiry date of 2016, are the sort of flimsy, paper thing that dentists wear with gaps all round the edges.

‘The instructions say they should be used if a resident has symptoms of the virus or actually has it. But these masks are completely useless in those situations.’

Avice Howarth’s mother, who was living in a care home. passed away on April 10

It comes after it was warned last night that a ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes may have cost 4,000 lives. Experts believe deaths are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.

GPs are also sometimes reluctant to write COVID-19 on death certificates and figures from care homes are not included in the official daily toll. 

Jane Rudge’s mother is a resident at Hopwood Court care home in Alvechurch, Worcestershire. The 94-year-old is now ill, with suspected COVID-19

The latest report from the Office for National Statistics says the virus killed 217 care home residents in England and Wales up to April 3. 

But industry figures say the true count is much higher – potentially 4,000 since the outbreak started. 

One leading statistician the numbers were being underestimated because GPs were unwilling to record ‘covid’ on death certificates if they hadn’t seen the patient. 

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, who is based at the Faculty of Mathematics at Cambridge University, highlighted emergency laws which came into force last month which enable doctors to certify deaths without being in physical attendance.

Under the Government’s Coronavirus Act, which was passed on March 25, doctors are allowed to carry out the process of death registration over-the-phone.

The new powers were intended to reduce the likelihood of GPs contracting the infection but Sir David said the upshot was that they were less inclined to record the virus as the cause of death.

Other organisations including the Alzheimer’s Society and Care England, the main representative body for social care organisations, said the death toll was being hugely underplayed by the lack of tests.

Currently only hospital patients and some frontline staff are being tested for the virus, although the Government hopes to roll this out to other key workers and the wider public if the capacity increases

Sir David said: ‘Less than 10 per cent of deaths are being coded for COVID-19 deaths outside hospitals. That’s at home, or in care homes.

‘Under a new regulation, doctors do not actually have to see a patient to register their deaths now. They can do it over the phone with a description of their symptoms.

‘I could understand many doctors or GPs not being willing to put COVID-19 on a death certificate when they’ve neither had a test, nor seen the patient.

‘Unfortunately, we don’t seem to know yet how many of these extra deaths are being registered without even seeing the patient. That seems to me very important to have that piece of information.’

Speaking to the BBC’s World At One, he added: ‘There are suggestions going around that doctors are kind of being encouraged not to put covid on the death certificate.’

He did not explain who was pressuring doctors not to report the virus on the death certificates or why.

Debbie Cholwill said her mother (pictured) passed away on April 10. On Facebook, she wrote: ‘It is with deep sadness that I am putting this message on sadly after six years of my mum being in a care home with dementia she sadly passed away last night, after testing positive for Coronavirus’

Elaine Shirt had to put her ‘lovely’ father Cyril Lawrence, 99, into respite in a care home after her mother was taken ill recently and went into hospital. Pictured, Mr Lawrence (front row, third from left) with Stan Mortensen (front row, sixth from left) at Blackpool in 1939

Something funny, Care Minister? Moment grinning MP Helen Whately LAUGHS as Piers Morgan confronts her over 4,000 coronavirus care home deaths

She said her laughter was a reaction to him showing her the front page of the newspaper, when she was unable to see him due to not having a screen visible showing the GMB host.

Care minister Helen Whately was blasted today for sniggering in a car crash TV interview as it was revealed a ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in nursing and old-people’s homes may have cost 4,000 lives.

She was taken to task by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain as he grilled her over an exclusive report in the Daily Mail that deaths in care facilities are being hugely under-reported because of a lack of testing.  

Mrs Whately, 43, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, was sent out to face the media this morning as anger and questions increased over the vulnerability of care home residents amid a lack of testing and personal protective equipment  (PPE) for staff. 

Appearing on GMB she insisted that the Government has been working hard to tackle the crisis, but Piers insisted she answer questions about deaths in care homes, telling her he expected her to be working hard.

He asked: ‘Is it true that 4,000 people have died in care home? Yes or no?’ 

But medical professionals are urged not to record an illness as cause of death unless they are very sure.  

Nick Stripe, head of the health analysis and life events division at the Office for National Statistics said: ‘It could be that the doctor certifying the death, to the best of their knowledge, is not sure enough that there is possibly covid involved to put it on the death certificate.

‘It’s dependent of the doctor, understanding the patient’s background and recent symptoms in terms of what in their medical opinion they put on the death certificate.’

Research by the London School of Economics over the weekend suggested that about half of coronavirus deaths in Europe were occurring in care homes.

In Belgium the figure was estimated to be 42 per cent, rising to 53 per cent in Italy and 57 per cent in Spain.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the official figures were ‘airbrushing older people out like they didn’t matter’.

She added: ‘Any suggestion that these spiralling care home deaths are somehow inevitable would be utterly wrong, sounding suspiciously like an excuse for failings of national policy and practice.’

Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary of Unison which represents many care home staff said: ‘These figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

‘A comprehensive programme of testing of staff and the people they look after should start at once.

‘Without daily updates on the number of people dying in residential care and their own homes, it’s impossible to track the spread of the virus. Hospital deaths are only part of the picture.’

Campaigners and MPs warned yesterday of an ‘unfolding horror’ that could end up with tens of thousands of forgotten victims. 

Ministers face urgent calls to get a grip and get virus tests for all staff and residents with symptoms, more protection gear and a Cabinet minister to deal with the crisis.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pledged action on testing and is also expected to outline a plan to address the crisis in a social care strategy. 

Care home operators complain they are being overlooked, with desperate short – ages of testing and staff safety equipment making it extremely hard to stop the disease ravaging their sites. 

Care minister Helen Whately was blasted today for sniggering in a car crash TV interview about the ‘hidden epidemic’ of coronavirus in care homes. 

She was taken to task by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain as he grilled her over a Mail exclusive that deaths in care facilities are being hugely under-reported. 

Mrs Whately, 43, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent,  insisted that the Government has been working hard to tackle the crisis.

But Piers insisted she answer questions about deaths in care homes, telling her he expected her to be working hard.

He asked: ‘Is it true that 4,000 people have died in care home? Yes or no?’ 

The Social Care Minister then thanked him for acknowledging what the government is doing and said the work was ‘really important’.

Piers interrupted to say tell her that it was more important that 4,000 people have died, only for the Minister to start laughing. 

The host said: ‘Why are you laughing? What do you find funny about this?’

She said: ‘I don’t think it’s funny in the slightest.’

He responded: ‘Well why do you keep laughing then? I’m not laughing at all,’ she said.

Piers replied: ‘I literally just asked you is it true that 4,000 elderly people have died in hosp and all you can do is laugh what’s the matter with you?’

As she continued to insist she wasn’t laughing and asked Piers not to suggest she had been, he said: ‘We literally just saw you.’ 

But she said her laughter was a reaction to him showing her the front page of the newspaper, when she was unable to see him due to not having a screen visible showing the GMB host. 

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