A British minister sparked a dispute in Westminster on Tuesday, suggesting that the government’s mistakes in the government’s initial handling of the pandemic were due to colleagues receiving “bad” scientific advice.
Thérèse Coffey, secretary for labor and pensions, pointed out the government’s own scientists as ministers faced criticism of political failures in the first weeks of the crisis, which fueled the high number of deaths in homes of care.
These include an inability to provide tests and personal protective equipment, as well as an insistence that facilities accept Covid-19 patients from hospitals.
Asked whether the government had made mistakes in hindsight, including the spread of the disease in nursing homes, Coffey told Sky News, “You can’t make judgments and make decisions. decisions only based on the information and advice you had at the time. .
“If the science was wrong, the advice at the time was wrong. I am not surprised if people will think that we have made a bad decision. We get advice from scientists. It’s up to the ministers to decide the policy.
“We tried …, at every step, [to make] sure we listen to science, understand it and make decisions based on it. “
Downing Street said that while its scientists were providing advice to the government, “the ministers ultimately decide.”
A spokesperson added: “The Prime Minister is extremely grateful for the hard work and expertise of world-renowned British scientists. We have always been guided by their advice and we continue to do so. “
When asked who made the decision to end large-scale community testing on March 12 and instead focus scarce testing resources on hospitals, the spokesman repeatedly refused to answer, saying only that “the ministers recognized that there was a need to strengthen testing capacities and that is what we have finished”.
Angela McLean, the government’s deputy chief science advisor, confirmed on Tuesday that the decision to abandon widespread community testing in mid-March was due to limited testing capacity.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, Professor Mclean said: “The advice we gave certainly took into account the tests available. It was the best thing to do with the tests we took. “
The government plans to reopen primary schools and non-essential stores on June 1.
However, Professor Mclean cautioned, “Scientists have been very clear in our advice that the lockout modifications, as we have modeled them, need a” tracking, tracing and isolation “system very effective.
“And we are also very clear that any change to social distancing measures should be based on the incidence levels observed in the places where they will change, not on a fixed date. “
The British government admitted on Monday that the deployment of its tracking application may not be ready for a few weeks.
In UK nursing homes, 22,169 more people died in the past eight weeks than in the same period in previous years, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. These dismal figures contrast sharply with countries like Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore where swift action has been taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
On Tuesday, MEPs learned that the UK has claimed far more lives than other better prepared countries.
South Korea, for example, has avoided death in a nursing home because anyone suspected of Covid-19 was either placed in segregation or transferred to another quarantine site or hospital, according to the evidence provided. to the British select health and social care committee.
Martin Green, CEO of Care England, which represents providers of private care homes, told the same committee that elderly residents of care homes should have been given priority at the start of the current pandemic.
Speaking Tuesday in the House of Commons, Secretary of Health Matt Hancock acknowledged that it is “important to learn from around the world.”
Defending the government’s approach, Hancock told MPs that 89% of all deaths were people over the age of 65 and 62% of nursing homes had no cases of coronavirus.
He insisted that the government had provided “unprecedented levels of support for the social protection system”.
It came as Care North East, which represents 21 of the 31 nursing homes in North Tyneside, sent a legal warning to the North Tyneside Council declaring “force majeure” and warning that the area of care in the region could begin to collapse.
The letter suggests that the additional costs of the pandemic have worsened longer-term board decisions that have weakened the sustainability of the nursing home market.
Care NE President Keith Gray said nursing homes were facing not only rising costs due to the pandemic, but also declining occupancy rates, already down 92% locally 80%.
The North Tyneside Council said that nursing homes saw funding increase by 5% in April, plus an additional 5% to cover the additional costs associated with the pandemic. He said he was discussing additional tailored financial support for nursing homes.