The level of Covid-19 infection in England’s care homes has reached levels not seen since the first wave of the pandemic, new figures show.
Covid outbreaks in care homes have increased more than threefold in the last month, with the second highest weekly total since April being registered in the week to 14 January.
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Public Health England (PHE) data shows that there were 977 outbreaks of respiratory conditions in care homes in England in the week leading up to 14 January, including 739 which were confirmed as coronavirus.
This is only slightly fewer total outbreaks than the mid-April peak, when 1,239 were reported, although only 651 of these were confirmed as Covid at that time
Experts have described the figures as “shocking” and “deeply concerning”.
Speaking to the Telegraph, chairman of the Independent Care Group, Mike Padgham, said: "It's shocking to see these figures. It's great that we've got vaccines, but they've come too slowly. In Scotland, they found a way to get them into care homes more quickly than we did in England. We could have avoided this."
Senior fellow at The Health Foundation, Adam Briggs, said: "The rise in reported care home incidents is deeply concerning. Care homes cannot be neglected again."
Are care home residents being vaccinated?
While some aspects of the Government’s vaccine programme are progressing as hoped, concerns have been raised at the pace of the rollout in care homes. Some reports suggest it can take up to ten times longer to vaccinate care home residents than people in the general community.
More than half of all the vaccinations administered in England have gone to those over 80, accounting for over a third of that demographic group. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that a quarter of all older care home residents have now been vaccinated.
Part of the issue is down to reduced mobility, and some residents are also hesitant to receive the vaccine.
A number of care homes are facing staff shortages due to the pandemic, which is also thought to be a contributing factor.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We have been doing everything we can to protect care homes and have placed residents and staff in the highest priority group for vaccinations."