European survey reveals England has lowest rate of COVID-19 care home deaths


England has reported the lowest rate of COVID-19 deaths per total fatalities in a study of European nations.

The study by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) provides some welcome relief to the UK government which has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the care home crisis.

The research, using ONS data as of May 9, shows there were almost 7,000 COVID-19 care home fatalities in England, amounting to 21% of 33,000 fatalities. Wales reported a higher rate of 25%, while care home COVID-19 death rates in Scotland amounted to 45% of 3,200 COVID-19 fatalities as of May 10.

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Elsewhere, the share of care home fatalities per total ranged from 37% in Germany to 66% in Spain, which had seen 18,000 deaths officially reported in care facilities as of May 11.

Rates were also high in France (50%) which reported more than 13,500 COVID-19 care home deaths as of May 11, Belgium (51%), Norway (61%) and Stockholm, Sweden (45%). Italy, which has Europe’s second highest overall fatality rate after the UK, was not included in the research.

While the European comparison favoured England, it should be borne in mind that the ONS is generally accepted to be underreporting the true number of care home fatalities with the latest estimates suggesting that the ‘real’ death number of deaths is more than double their figure.

England’s protection of its care home community during the crisis bears further scrutiny when brought into comparison with Hong Kong which has seen no COVID-19 deaths at its 19 care homes.

Professor Terry Lum of Hong Kong University told a UK Parliamentary Select Committee yesterday that Hong Kong had achieved zero deaths by deploying strict infection control procedures ignored in the UK.

Professor Lum said Hong Kong had focused on preventing the spread of the virus to care homes from hospitals with positive people quarantined for up to three months, The Guardian reported.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented global pandemic which can sadly have a devastating effect on some of our most vulnerable people.

“Since the start of this pandemic we have worked tirelessly to ensure our care homes and frontline care workforce get the support they need.

‘’We have set out a comprehensive action plan to support the adult social care sector in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak, including making sure millions of PPE items are available and using our increased testing capacity to test care home residents and staff regardless of symptoms.’’

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The author Lee Peart

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