The New Observer All categrories The UK’s Covid-19 care home scandal

The UK’s Covid-19 care home scandal

20,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Care Homes. [1] (The official figures are massaged; so this is based on ONS data analysed by academics at the LSE).

There are two important articles in today’s Guardian. The first shows how the Government explicitly rejected a radical lockdown of UK Care Homes. It is specifically this radical lockdown that would have saved the 20,000 people. We can note that even now there is no lockdown of Care Homes. Elderly people continue to die needlessly. Not even to protect the economy. Just pointlessly. For example; there was a proposal by Public Health England on 28 April (2 months too late but better than nothing) for Care Home staff to move into Care Homes – so as to isolate them (this would be the “protective ring” that the Health Minister said had been implemented but existed only as a piece of spin). The government rejected this on the grounds that not all Care Homes can accommodate staff. This is pathetic. A practical difficulty that could easily have been solved. For example; those Care Homes that could implement this should have done. In other cases there are different options; put temporary living Units for staff on site (caravans); people in many industries work like this – it is nothing unusual. Move residents from homes where this can’t be done to where it can be, and so on. As one Care Home operator reported on in the article points out if staff had been offered 24 hour pay there would have been no shortage of volunteers. And money can hardly be an issue – hundreds of billions have been spent on furloughing healthy adults whose risk from Covid-19 is comparable to flu. There is no valid reason not to have done this. It is inexplicable that this hasn’t been done. The only possible conclusion is that the government has deliberately decided to let thousands of old people die needlessly. It is as if it is some kind of primitive sacrifice to the Gods. Maybe, the magical (pre-rational) thinking goes; if we offer the Gods these 20,000 people we will be spared. I cannot see any rational explanation.

The second article looks at how the deaths have occured. I would invite readers to read it in full. To give a flavour of it. On 25 February Government Guidance to Care Homes was “no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present…. It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home … will become infected”. [Update on 31/5/20 – this is inexplicable. The SAGE Committee which advises the government had noted as early as the 22 January that there was some evidence of human-to-human transmission from China [6]]. Remember at this time the epidemic (which had long since been characterised by the WHO as an International health emergency of serious concern) had already established itself in Italy and people had already started dying. It was already well-known from the experience of China that this is a very serious disease, especially for the elderly. “no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present”.

One March 3 Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer said: “One of the things we are keen to avoid is doing things too early”. By this time the epidemic was obviously expanding in Italy. On 13 March Public Health England asked Care Homes only to keep out symptomatic people. But it was already established or at the very least strongly suspected by the end of January  that Covid-19 transmits asymptomatically. They simply cannot claim as the Department for Health and Social Care claims that they “followed a science-led action plan”. Rationally assessed they followed the precise same plan they would if they had consciously planned mass murder.

Somewhat depressingly we know in advance that no one -Government ministers nor public health officials – are ever going to be seriously held to account for what amounts to a senseless massacre of elderly victims.

Update 31/5/20

According to an analysis by The Independent Care Homes were only mentioned twice in the SAGE meetings between January and May. (It isn’t quite clear if they mean the end of May – it seems they do). [2]

The UK government did not produce a plan for Social Care until 16 April. [3]

Italy had made the same mistake that the UK subsequently made of releasing people untested from hospital to care homes. [4]

By the end of March more than 12,00o people had already died in Italy. [5] Many of these in Care Homes.

Essentially the UK simply repeated the senseless and avoidable tragedy that was already unfolding just across the Channel in Italy.

They go on about modelling and behavioural science and even “following the science”. But all they had to do was fucking look.