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Infectious Diseases

The Coronavirus Toll in Care Homes Risks Becoming a Forgotten Tragedy

Posted on 14 April 2020

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Snapshot figures gathered by UK academics show that in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Ireland, around 50% of coronavirus deaths are occurring in care homes. Today, two of the largest care home providers in the UK announced 521 coronavirus-related deaths in recent weeks, and the overall count is likely to be far larger.

It’s like a perfect storm: a susceptible population, not being able to implement the measures and the staff are not well supported and trained enough. Many of the staff are care assistants with very little medical knowledge.

Adelina Comas-Herrera, LSE care policy and evaluation centre

Despite care homes being such seemingly obvious fertile ground for the spread of the virus, cases and deaths have been severely under-reported in the UK due to lack of access to testing. There is a concern that the resulting disparity between the reporting of hospital deaths and care home deaths has lead to the social care sector being ‘abandoned’.

Reported deaths in the week ending 27th of March

The National Care Association has warned that deaths in care homes risk being “airbrushed out” with the headline daily death toll announced by the government only relating to deaths in the NHS. The ONS is gathering care home figures from death certificates where doctors report that a fatality was confirmed or suspected of having occurred because of the virus.

If care homes cannot be provided with adequate testing and medical support, thousands of lives could quietly be lost, yet homes are reportedly struggling to get people hospitalised:

They are left without protective equipment, they can’t find it, or testing even if they request it, it’s not always given to them. […] and some are finding if people need to be hospitalised either that tends to be very difficult or if people are sent to hospital they are sent back very quickly and there are no tests so they don’t know if these people are infecting others in their care homes.

Ros Altmann, former government minister
Booth, R., & Mason, R. (2020). Two of UK’s largest care home providers report 521 coronavirus deaths. Retrieved 14 April 2020, from

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