July 7, 2020 / 7:41 AM / a month ago

Johnson under fire for reigniting care home deaths blame game

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a growing storm on Tuesday after saying some care homes didn’t follow procedures to stem the spread of COVID-19 deaths, sparking an accusation that he was trying to rewrite history.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds outside 10 Downing Street on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the NHS, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, July 5, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Britain has one of the highest death tolls in the world from COVID-19, at more than 44,000, with around 20,000 dying in care homes, according to government statistics.

While the government has been heavily criticised by opposition politicians and some medics over the slow delivery of protective clothing and testing in care homes, Johnson appeared to suggest blame for the outbreaks lay with the care homes themselves.

“We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons,” Johnson said on Monday.

Mark Adams, Chief Executive of charity Community Integrated Care, said he was “unbelievably disappointed” by Johnson’s comments, slamming them as clumsy and cowardly, adding they represented a dystopian rewriting of history.

“To get a throwaway comment almost glibly blaming the social care system, and not holding your hands up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, it is just frankly unacceptable,” he told BBC radio.

“If this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality.”

A Reuters Special Report detailed how the government’s focus on preventing emergency wards from being overwhelmed left care home residents and staff exposed to COVID-19.

To free up hospital beds, many patients were discharged into homes for the elderly and vulnerable, many without being tested for the coronavirus.

Following his comments, a spokesman for Johnson said: “Throughout this crisis care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.

“The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time,” he said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout and David Milliken; Editing by Nick Macfie

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