Care homes are again epicentre of coronavirus outbreaks, alarming data shows

The number of outbreaks in care homes is rising, new data shows (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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Care homes have yet again become the epicentre of Covid outbreaks, heartbreaking new data shows.

Most outbreaks of Covid-19 reported to Public Health England (PHE) are taking place in care homes and have risen.

There were 977 suspected outbreaks in care homes reported to PHE in the week to January 10, and 739 had at least one linked case that tested positive for coronavirus.

This is up from 749 suspected outbreaks the week before.

It comes after government guidelines were changed to allow hospitals to discharge people to care homes even without a negative Covid test.

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Residents and workers in care homes are being prioritised for Covid jabs (file image)
(Image: Getty Images)

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Coronavirus patients who have completed 14 days isolation without showing symptoms of the virus can now be moved directly into care homes from hospitals without being re-tested.

Such individuals were not considered to pose an infection risk, according to guidelines issued by the government to care homes across the country.

Hospitals previously had to conduct a Covid-19 test on anyone being moved into a care home 48 hours before discharge.

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the move will have "potentially tragic consequences."

New guidelines say people can return to care homes from hospital even without a negative Covid test
(Image: Getty Images/Cultura RF)

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He said: "We urge ministers to review this guidance and ensure that no one is discharged into a care home without a Covid test, to protect lives."

While the PHE data does not show a full picture of where coronavirus transmission is happening, it does suggest an issue in care homes and in some hospitals.

The NHS has been told to vaccinate care home residents by the end of next week.

The latest PHE data shows 243 suspected outbreaks in workplaces in the week to January 10 – up from 166 the week before – with 182 having at least one confirmed Covid-19 positive case.

Meanwhile, 78 were in hospitals, down from 79 the week before, with 65 having at least one positive Covid-19 case.

A further 31 were in educational settings, such as schools, where 24 had at least one linked case, down from 33 the previous week.

Some 18 incidents were from food outlets/restaurants, up slightly from 11 the week before.

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