A Tory minister has offered a weak defence of the care homes fiasco – claiming residents were protected “as far as we could”.
Matt Hancock last May boasted he had thrown a “protective ring” around care homes from the start to shield residents from Covid.
But after Dominic Cummings branded that claim “complete nonsense”, more evidence has dripped out of just how exposed the frail were.
Challenged repeatedly today on the Health Secretary’s boast, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng swerved repeating – and instead said: “They were protected as far as we could.”
He insisted “we were absolutely focused on that time on saving as many lives as possible”.
But he added: “I completely understand the anger and frustration about care homes, because a large number of people died and it was a terrible situation.”
A newly-published Public Health England report has linked 286 deaths to Covid outbreaks that were “seeded” from residents arriving from hospital.
Most happened between mid-March and mid-April, when hospital patients were not routinely being tested before going into care homes.
Dominic Cummings made bombshell claims this week that Matt Hancock had promised to extend testing to new care home arrivals – but when the PM returned from his own battle with Covid, it still wasn’t happening.
Mr Hancock admitted he’d promised to scale up the testing – but insisted he had never said it would be ready straight away.
Despite this, patients were still allowed to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without a Covid test.
Mr Kwarteng insisted Mr Hancock had been “excellent” because he’s “worked hard” and “it’s very easy with hindsight to say where things could have been improved.”
He told Times Radio: “I think Matt was very clear that he would try and build the capacity, the testing capacity, and he was very successful in that.
“He was also a very key figure in the vaccine rollout, which has also been successful.”
He added: “So I think Matt’s contribution has been excellent.”
But Nadra Ahmed of the National Care Association said claims of a “protective shield” were “absolute rubbish”.
She said: “We put social care on the altar to be slaughtered while we worked on the mantra that the NHS must be protected.”
Sam Monaghan, chief executive of care home charity MHA, told Times Radio: “There’s no way that you can take people into care homes who aren’t tested.
“Its is like putting kind of a live explosive into a box of tinder.”
She added: “That just highlights that there was no support, and that we were abandoned as a sector during that first wave.”