Matt Hancock snubbed Covid tests at care homes despite expert advice

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Texts between Professor Chris Whitty and Mr Hanckock in April 2020 reveal Whitty urged testing for “all going into care homes” a month into the pandemic. But the minister did not heed his advice, telling advisers: “It muddies the waters.”

Instead, he brought in guidance that made testing mandatory for those entering care homes from hospital, but not those arriving from the community.

Prior to that, care homes were told negative tests were not needed even for hospital patients.

Advice stating those coming in from the community should be tested was eventually introduced on August 14.

Between April 17 and August 13, 2020, 17,678 people died of Covid in care homes in England.

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Mr Hancock later told MPs that transmission from the community – particularly from staff – was the “strongest route” for the lethal bug into care homes.

WhatsApp messages published in the Daily Telegraph, which has obtained more than 100,000 exchanges between Mr Hancock, other ministers and officials, show he expressed concerns over expanding testing in care homes.

The Health Secretary said it could “get in the way” of his self-imposed target of 100,000 Covid tests a day.

In a WhatsApp conversation about its finer details, Mr Hancock told his advisers: “Chris Whitty has done an evidence review and now recommend testing of all going into care homes, and segregation whilst awaiting result.

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“This is obviously a good positive step & we must put into the doc.”

Mortality rates in English care homes jumped 79 percent in the first 16 weeks of the pandemic.

By April, the risk of death for a care home resident was 17 times higher than for someone living at home.

Mr Hancock did not immediately comment.

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