Outbreaks in England's care homes are at lowest level for six months

Outbreaks of chest infections including Covid-19 in England’s care homes are at lowest levels for six MONTHS after dropping more than 95% since coronavirus peak

  • Between August 24 and August 30 outbreaks dropped to just 58 in England
  • This is below the highs of 1,010 a week recorded at the height of the pandemic
  • Outbreaks are when two or more people have the same symptoms, like a cough
  • They may not mark a coronavirus infection as the figure includes other diseases 

Outbreaks of coronavirus-like illnesses in care homes have dropped to a six month low, according to Public Health England.

Between August 24 and August 30 there were 58 outbreaks of coughs or ‘acute respiratory infections’ in England, said PHE, marking a 38 per cent fall on last week’s 94 cases.

But the number recorded is more than 90 per cent down on the levels seen at the height of the pandemic, which spiked to 1,010 a week at the start of April. 

An outbreak constitutes two or more people having the same symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.

Not all the outbreaks are confirmed coronavirus cases because the category includes other infections that can lead to coughing, such as influenza.

Any rises in infections in care homes are serious, because the elderly are most at risk of dying if they catch coronavirus, or a host of other infections. 

The report also highlighted a 40 per cent jump in outbreaks in workplace settings, which rose to 45 compared to 32 the week before.

And the number also rose in restaurants, to 21, and in educational settings such as schools and universities, to nine. 

The government has announced restrictions ordering people in England to meet in groups with a maximum size of six people that come into force on Monday.

It comes after the UK recorded more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for three consecutive days.

Care home residents are ‘losing the will to live’ because the sector is still under ‘prison-like’ lockdowns, MPs were told today (file) 

The last time the number of outbreaks in care homes was this low was between March 9 and March 15, when they dropped to 41.

The UK launched its nationwide lockdown eight days later, by which point outbreaks had surged to 249. 

The dropping number of outbreaks comes amid mounting concerns about the UK’s sudden rise in new coronavirus cases, and fears these could be passed into care homes.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer warns Britain faces a ‘bumpy ride’ in the coming months 

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said on Monday that the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned that the public has relaxed ‘too much’ over the summer as he predicts a ‘bumpy ride’ for the UK in the weeks ahead.

The country has recorded almost 3,000 new cases for two consecutive days, prompting Matt Hancock to describe the figures as ‘concerning’.

Professor Van-Tam said on Monday that the rising case numbers are also of ‘great concern’, amid fears Britain’s outbreak could get out of control.

Should the number of new infections rise too high the track and trace system will be overwhelmed, requiring new social distancing restrictions to be imposed.

Coronavirus tests can take up to a week to be processed, meaning the spike happened over the August bank holiday.

Visitors are allowed to visit care homes in the UK, according to the Department of Health, subject to recommendations from local directors of health. 

‘We recognise that lockdown has been difficult for many residents and families over the past few months and that visits are important for all those in care settings,’ they said.  

Visitors are required to wear a face mask and wash their hands thoroughly before and after putting it on. 

But there are concerns these measures could be rolled back in the case of a second wave, after the health secretary said the government is prepared to ‘step up’ the restrictions as needed. 

Britons are already facing a ‘rule of six’ law coming into force on Monday and threats of a curfew should the rate of infections fail to abate.

The restrictions will be in place for the ‘forseeable future’ Hancock told the Today programme, prompting fears they may disrupt Christmas plans.

‘It’s absolutely there for the foreseeable future’, he said. ‘I really hope that we can turn this around before Christmas.’

‘In a pandemic, Christmas is a long way off. Three months is a long time in a pandemic.

‘I very much hope that this stronger together rule with the local action that we’ve taken in places like Bolton (will be effective). We’ve got to make sure that right now people;e both understand the rules and follow them.’

Charities warned previous restrictions had ‘damaging consequences’ for both families and care home residents.

Thanking the government for previously deciding to re-allow visits to care home, Lisa Lenton, chair of Care Providers Alliance, said: ‘The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll in many ways. The effect of not being able to see friends and family has been very difficult and very upsetting for many – both for the people who access care and support, and for their loved ones who have been isolated.

‘The Care Provider Alliance welcomes this overdue guidance – the CPA has been calling for Government guidance for many weeks and released its own visitors protocol last month in its absence. People need people and this is such an important step for the wellbeing of individuals and their relatives.’

Care homes have seen the highest number of Covid-like illnesses, according to Public Health England


The drop in care home outbreaks comes as coronavirus deaths hit a 24-week low at the end of August, according to figures released by the National Audit Office.

A total of 73 people died from Covid-19 in England and Wales in the week ending August 28, they said. The dip marks a 24 per cent drop on the previous week’s 96 deaths, the first time they fell to single figures since the pandemic began.

It is also a nose-dive from the 8,000-plus deaths a week registered at the peak of the pandemic.

But ONS data shows the total number of deaths in the UK has remained above the five-year average for the third week in a row, at 9.6 per cent over the expected level.

More than 790 additional people are dying in private homes and care homes, while deaths in hospitals remain below the average.

Experts argue this is because many patients are still too scared to seek medical treatment for conditions, while others don’t want to ‘burden’ the health service.

Hancock told Sky News that restrictions would be in place for the ‘forseeable future’

Flu accounted for 14 times more deaths than coronavirus in the last week of August, at 1,040. It marks the twelfth week that deaths from influenza have remained above those from coronavirus.

The UK has now registered as many as 57,417 deaths from Covid-19, with 52,316 in England, 4,228 in Scotland and 873 in Northern Ireland.

There were a total of 9,032 deaths in the week ending August 28, which is 791 deaths, or 9.6 per cent, above the average.

It is the third week in a row that they have remained above the average, with every region in England and Wales seeing more deaths than expected at this time of year.

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