COVID-19 cases in Leeds care homes higher than spring peak
Written by Rother Radio News on 29/10/2020
Sky News has uncovered data that shows in at least one part of the UK, COVID-19 care home cases have exceeded spring’s levels.
The data will spark fears that Britain may have failed for a second time to protect the care sector, which faced 27,000 excess deaths of mostly elderly residents in England and Wales – almost half the death toll in spring.
The statistics seen by Sky News, collected by the NHS for internal monitoring, show that the number of active COVID cases in care homes in Leeds exceeded 200 early this week. This is considerably higher than the peak of 160 active cases recorded in May.
The data show that not only is the absolute level of care home COVID-19 cases in Leeds at a record high, growth in cases is also mounting faster than in the spring.
Cases have been doubling every three days over the past fortnight and show little sign of slowing.
The news is the latest blow for the Department of Health and Social Care, which had pledged to ensure that those working and living in care homes would be better protected in the event of a second wave.
They assigned more PPE to workers and provided more tests for care homes, hoping that they would not face the increase in cases and deaths seen in spring.
However, this data underlines that in at least one pocket of the country, COVID cases from the community now seem to have spread into the care sector.
Leeds was already facing a sharp increase in community cases and hospitalisations, with the NHS data showing that the number of COVID patients in hospital has now equalled the spring peak.
However, while many of the early cases in Leeds were among young people and students, the unpublished NHS data seen by Sky News shows that there are now 34 care homes in the area facing outbreaks, many with multiple infections. This is close to the peak in the spring.
Insiders said part of the explanation for the sharp leap in cases was that more testing is being carried out in the West Yorkshire area.
It is also understood that the majority of these cases are among care home staff rather than residents – however, the precise breakdown is unclear.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our first priority remains the prevention of infections in care homes to protect staff and residents and we are constantly monitoring and responding to the latest figures.
“It is why we have introduced regular testing for staff and residents, providing more than 120,000 tests every day to the care sector.
“Our Adult Social Care Winter Plan supports care homes by putting a total of £1.1bn into infection control measures, alongside free PPE and detailed guidance.
“Stopping staff movement in and between care settings is also critical to minimise the risk of infection of COVID-19, and providers should limit staff movements unless absolutely necessary.”
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton told Sky News: “This spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our city’s care homes is extremely worrying.
“Given the obvious vulnerability of care home residents to this virus, it’s absolutely vital that the government put in place a proper winter care home plan so past mistakes are not repeated.”
He continued: “The government has so far failed to protect the elderly throughout this crisis and it’s time it made social care a top priority for the difficult months ahead.”
“Labour’s shadow social care Minister Liz Kendall wrote to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month warning of this exact situation.
“She made clear that we must have weekly, rapid testing of care staff, proper PPE and urgent additional support for families to be able to safely visit care home.
“The responsibility lies solely with the government and they must act to ensure the elderly are protected from this dreadful virus.”
© Sky News 2020