Boris Johnson today insisted he will not be ‘pushed into becoming a knee jerk Sinophobe’ as he warned Britain cannot ‘completely abandon’ its relationship with China despite rising tensions with Beijing.
The Prime Minister said the UK does have ‘serious concerns’ about China’s behaviour on issues like human rights abuses and Hong Kong.
But he said China is ‘going to be a giant factor in our lives, in the lives of our children and our grandchildren’ and as a result Britain must adopt a ‘calibrated response’ of being ‘tough on some things’ while also continuing to engage on others.
Mr Johnson’s comments, made during a visit to a school in Kent this morning, came after MPs warned the UK is ‘sliding towards a cold war’ with China and it must ‘work with its allies’ to tell Beijing ‘enough is enough’.
Meanwhile, Dominic Raab will this afternoon announce the UK is suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on the former British colony.
It is thought he will say extradition arrangements will be shelved rather than completely torn up, with the latter option apparently being held back as a ‘final lever to pull’ should China fail to change tack.
The move will prompt a further escalation in tensions between Britain and China with the two nations having clashed repeatedly in recent months over coronavirus, Hong Kong, Huawei and human rights.
Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said it is time for a ‘reset of our entire foreign policy’ towards China after too long of ‘turning a blind eye’ to Beijing’s unacceptable behaviour.
Mr Raab’s announcement on extradition will come on the same day that Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, is due to fly into the UK ahead of talks with the Foreign Secretary and Mr Johnson tomorrow.
Boris Johnson, pictured during a visit to a school in Kent this morning, said the UK cannot ‘completely abandon’ engagement with China amid rising tensions with Beijing
Mr Johnson said he would not be ‘pushed into becoming a knee jerk Sinophobe’ as he called for the UK to take a ‘calibrated’ approach to dealing with China
The PM’s comments came as Dominic Raab is expected to today announce that the UK’s extradition treaty with Hong Kong is going to be shelved
Why is the UK suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong?
China imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong at the end of June this year.
The controversial legislation criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces but also curtails rights to protest and freedom of speech.
Crucially, the rules apply outside the borders of China.
This has stoked fears Beijing could try to use the extradition mechanism to drag any overseas residents involved in pro-democracy activism back to Hong Kong.
The UK does currently have an extradition treaty with Hong Kong but it does not have one with China.
There are fears that people could be extradited back to Hong Kong to be unfairly punished.
Canada and Australia have both already suspended their extradition arrangements with Hong Kong with the US currently considering whether to also follow suit.
However, while Mr Pompeo’s visit was initially viewed as a likely ‘victory lap’ over the UK’s decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from the 5G network, it has now been suggested he will hold the Prime Minister’s ‘feet to the fire’ and urge even tougher action against Beijing.
Meanwhile, Mr Pompeo is due to meet with a cross-party group of 20 MPs who are seen as ‘hawks’ on China before his meeting with the Foreign Secretary and PM in a move which will be seen by some as a snub to Number 10.
Relations between Britain and China have rapidly deteriorated in recent months and Mr Raab’s announcement on extradition will further inflame tensions, with Beijing having already warned the UK faces retaliation over its Huawei U-turn.
Both Canada and Australia have suspended their extradition arrangements with Hong Kong and the US is considering taking the same action.
The moves come after China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong which criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces but also curtails rights to protest and freedom of speech.
The rules apply outside the borders of China and this has stoked fears Beijing could try to use the extradition mechanism to drag any overseas residents involved in pro-democracy activism back to Hong Kong. The UK does not have an extradition treaty with China.
Britain has already offered a route to UK citizenship for up to three million Hong Kongers with British National (Overseas) status in response to the law being put in place.
How the Hong Kong row between China and the UK unfolded
June 2: Dominic Raab urges China not to go ahead with a proposed national security law and says the UK will offer a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers with BNO status if Beijing proceeds.
June 30: The Chinese government decides to go ahead with imposing the law despite mounting international pressure, prompting an instant rebuke from the UK.
July 1: Mr Raab makes a formal offer to up to three million Hong Kongers to come to the UK and announces a review of extradition arrangements.
July 3: Canada suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
July 6: China’a Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, accuses Britain of a ‘gross interference in China’s internal affairs’.
July 9: Australia suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
July 20: The Foreign Secretary is expected to announce the UK is also suspending extradition arrangements with the former British colony.
Mr Johnson was asked this morning if the UK is going to reset its relationship with China and he replied: ‘Let’s be very clear, there is a balance here and I am not going to be pushed into a position of becoming a knee jerk Sinophobe on every issue, somebody who is automatically anti-China.
‘But we do have serious concerns. We have concerns about the treatment of the Uighur minority, obviously about the human rights abuses.
‘We obviously have concerns about what is happening in Hong Kong and you will be hearing a bit later on from the foreign secretary about how we are going to change our extradition arrangements to reflect our concerns about what is happening with the security law in Hong Kong.
‘We have to think about the human rights, the rights of the people of Hong Kong to participate in democratic processes.’
He added: ‘What we won’t do, as I say, is completely abandon our policy of engagement with China.
‘China is a giant fact of geopolitics, it is going to be a giant factor in our lives, in the lives of our children and our grand children.
‘We have got to have a calibrated response and we are going to be tough on some things but also we are going to continue to engage.’
The expected shift on extradition comes a week after the Government announced it is banning Huawei from the UK’s 5G network, with all of the firm’s technology to be stripped out by the end of 2027.
China is likely to dominate discussions during talks between Mr Pompeo, Mr Raab and Mr Johnson tomorrow.
The ‘hawk’ MPs Mr Pompeo is also due to meet with believe the US Secretary of State will urge Mr Raab and Mr Johnson to further strengthen the UK’s stance against China.
The move by the Foreign Secretary comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to fly into the UK for talks with Mr Raab which will be dominated by China
One source told The Telegraph: ‘The visit has been written up as a victory lap, but that is plainly wrong.
‘The Americans are not even remotely satisfied and the purpose of this trip is to hold the Prime Minister ‘s feet to the fire.’
Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister, warned last night that the UK is ‘sliding towards a cold war’ with China having ‘been duped over the last couple of decades’ by Beijing.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme: ‘I really want to see a reset of our entire foreign policy, bearing in mind that we are sliding towards a cold war, we can’t do this on our own, we need to work with our allies.
‘We turned a blind eye to what was going on with the Uighur population, we turned a blind eye to the uneven trade situation whereby Chinese companies could operate quite liberally within the UK and elsewhere but our companies couldn’t operate within China and now I think it’s time to say enough is enough.’
China accused the UK of ‘dancing to America’s tune’ in the wake of the Huawei U-turn. The White House has long urged its allies not to use the firm’s technology over national security concerns – concerns Huawei has always rejected.
Tensions increased yesterday as Mr Raab accused Beijing of being responsible for ‘gross egregious human rights abuses’.
China’s Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, was confronted during a BBC interview with video footage of Uighur people being detained and forced onto a train in Xinjiang province.
Mr Liu dismissed claims of human rights abuses as ‘false accusations’ as he hit back at suggestions that the UK could impose sanctions on any Chinese government officials involved in any such action.
He said: ‘That is totally wrong. We never believe the unilateral section. We believe that the UN has the authority to you know impose sanctions, and if the UK government goes that far, goes that far to impose sanctions on any individuals in China, China will certainly make resolute response to it.
‘You have seen what happened between China and the United States. They sanctioned Chinese officials, we sanctioned their Senators, their officials.
‘I do not want to see this tit for tat that has happened in China, UK relations. I think UK should have its own independent foreign policy rather than dance to the tune of Americans, like what happened to Huawei.’
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Tougher coronavirus rules in Scotland put pressure on PM
The Prime Minister yesterday set out a wave of measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
But he did not make any changes to rules around households mixing with each other as the existing ‘rule of six’ provision remained in place.
However, the other three home nations have all moved on the issue and introduced tighter curbs.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has also told people in Scotland not to book overseas half-term breaks while Wales has restricted the sale of alcohol after 10pm.
The fact that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken a tougher approach in some areas has prompted questions over whether Mr Johnson will now be forced to do the same.
Below is a breakdown of how the rules are different in each country.
Boris Johnson’s coronavirus crackdown is facing scrutiny after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced even tougher restrictions
Working from home is once again being encouraged, with anyone who can being asked to do so.
People who cannot, such as those working in construction or retail, are being advised they should continue to go to their workplaces.
From Thursday pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service only and hospitality, leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses will all have to close between 10pm and 5am.
People working in retail, travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except while seated at a table to eat or drink, will have to wear face coverings.
From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, but the limit remains at 30 for funerals.
The rule of six, introduced last weekend, that any social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors are against the law, is being extended to all adult indoor team sports.
Large sporting events, business conferences and exhibitions will not reopen as had been planned from October 1.
The penalties for disobeying the rules will also be greater – failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will see fines doubling to £200 for a first offence.
Businesses which break the rules could be fined up to £10,000 and closed.
Fines of up to £10,000 for people who fail to self-isolate have already been announced.
Downing Street said military support was an option to free up police so they can focus on enforcing the tougher rules.
For people in the shielding category, Mr Johnson said the guidance remains that shielding is not currently needed, unless they are in a local lockdown area.
Nicola Sturgeon has urged people in Scotland not to book overseas travel during half term unless it is essential
Household mixing indoors will no longer be allowed, with exemptions for those living alone, couples not living together, childcare and tradespeople.
Regulations come into force on Friday but people are being asked to comply from today.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said children under 12 will be exempt from the current limit of six people from two households when meeting outside, and those between 12 and 18 will be able to meet a limit of six others from six households outdoors.
From Friday pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and further resources will be given to environmental health officials to step up enforcement and inspections, to check that social distancing and other hygiene guidance is being adhered to.
People in Scotland are also being advised against car-sharing, with Ms Sturgeon saying that according to Test and Protect data there is a ‘significant risk of transmission’ in such settings.
She said no decision has been taken yet on a so-called circuit-break in October, and the Scottish Government is ‘keeping it under review’.
She asked people not to book any overseas travel for the half-term break unless it is essential, and to use it as an opportunity to ‘further limit social interaction’.
She said people who were shielding earlier in the year are not at this stage being asked to do so again, but that they should follow the steps outlined for the general population.
In an address to the nation, the First Minister acknowledged the measures might feel like ‘a step backwards’, but added: ‘We know what we need to do to protect ourselves and others – and all of us have a part to play.’
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that only six people are now able to meet indoors and they must be part of a single extended household
Pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos in Wales must operate as table service only and close from 10pm on Thursday.
Off-licences including supermarkets will also be stopped from selling alcohol at the same time each day as part of the measures.
Only six people are now able to meet indoors and must be part of a single extended household.
Face coverings must be worn on public transport, in shops and in enclosed public spaces across Wales.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said in a televised address: ‘Families have lost loved ones. People have lost jobs and livelihoods. This is a highly infectious virus.
‘We cannot let it take a hold of our lives again. We have come too far to let that happen.’
The First Minister of Wales has also asked people to ‘think every time they make a journey’ and avoid unnecessary travel.
Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate across the UK and Ireland, and fresh Covid-19 restrictions are to be extended from some specific postcodes to the whole country from 6pm on Tuesday.
Households will no longer be allowed to mix indoors, except for single-person bubbles and certain other exemptions.
No more than six people from two households can meet in a garden.
Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster said a spike in coronavirus cases was a ‘wake up call’ and a ‘reminder that we are not out of the woods’
Pubs which do not serve food, known as wet pubs, are due to open on Wednesday, despite the latest restrictions.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said whether to introduce an early closing time for pubs is something ministers would be considering, describing replicating the 10pm curfew being introduced in England as ‘fair enough’ to consider.
First Minister Arlene Foster said a two-week period of lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus, a so-called circuit breaker, could not be ruled out.
Discussing the latest measures on Tuesday evening, she said: ‘We need to act, but I do want to reassure you that despite all of the headlines this is not a second lockdown.
‘This is a wake-up call, a reminder that we are not out of the woods.’
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Listed status for former Cambridge home of labourer David Parr
The home and workshop of a working-class Victorian labourer who decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge has been given Grade II listed status.
David Parr bought his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in the city in 1886 and worked on it tirelessly until his death in 1927.
His descendants lived in the house until 2013, preserving it like a time capsule, and it has since been turned into a visitor attraction showcasing his craft.
Behind the door of this unassuming house is an extraordinary artistic masterpiece which can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience via the socially-distanced audio tours
Inside the home of David Parr: The working-class Victorian labourer created a work of art on walls and ceilings with all-over patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer
David Parr worked tirelessly on his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in Cambridge from 1886 until his death in 1927
It appears in passing to be an ordinary mid-Victorian worker’s terraced house, but inside Parr created a work of art, with its walls and ceilings covered in intricate patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer.
Parr was employed by the nationally renowned firm of artistic workmen FR Leach & Sons, which had its showroom at 3 St Mary’s Passage in Cambridge.
The two properties have been listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
The intricate details on the ceilings and walls are a true work of art which can be marvelled at by people through audio tours
The house has been meticulously crafted and designed both inside and out and is now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House
Arts and Crafts: From industrial-era chaos to beauty in the everyday
The Arts and Crafts movement took off in the second half of the 19th century to elevate the way society viewed design and manufacture.
It was born out of the damaging effects of industrialisation and the lack of appreciation of the decorative arts.
In order to develop products in a less dehumanising way, designers started to adopt new principles to the manufacturing of objects.
William Morris was seen as the the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, who by the 1880s became internationally renowned as a successful designer and manufacturer.
He believed in the importance of creating beautiful objects that could be used in daily life.
His belief was that makers must remain connected to their product and other people.
The Arts and Crafts movement was also influenced by the work of Gothic revivalist Augustus Pugin (1812–1852).
The interior designer and architect helped challenge the mid-Victorian fashion for ornamentation.
Like Morris, he focused on the medieval period as a template for good design and good living.
Other key influencers were George Bodley, the Gothic Revival architect and Charles Kempe, the stained-glass artist.
His home, now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House, has been listed at Grade II*, while his employer’s former showroom has been listed at Grade II.
Tony Calladine, regional director for Historic England in the East of England, said: ‘The listing of David Parr House and 3 St Mary’s Passage gives due recognition to the unknown highly talented artists and craftsmen who brought to life the creative inspiration of celebrated designers.
‘In supporting David Parr House to create a digital tour, we hope this extraordinary artistic masterpiece will be enjoyed by a much wider audience.’
Historic England awarded a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Resilience Grant of more than £40,000 to enable David Parr House to offer the pre-bookable digital tours.
Tamsin Wimhurst, chairwoman of trustees of David Parr House, said: ‘This is wonderful recognition for all the hard work shown by everyone who helped to save and conserve the David Parr House.
‘It highlights the importance of having spaces where we can celebrate ordinary working people, the beauty of making and the comfort of home.’
Parr, who together with his wife Mary Jane raised their three children Mary, David and Sarah at their house, kept a notebook in which he recorded the transformation of the house.
Alongside the painted decoration, items of joinery designed and built by Parr also survive, alongside the original curtain rails, the late 19th century toilet and the 1920s oven, which provide an almost complete picture of a house of this period.
The recent conservation of the house, which was based on detailed research and carried out with scrupulous care, has ensured its ongoing preservation.
The house is described by Historic England as a ‘physical embodiment of the renaissance of crafts encouraged by the Gothic Revival and, later, the Arts and Crafts movement’.
FR Leach & Sons, whose former showroom has been listed, received the keys to 3 St Mary’s Passage in 1880.
The company worked in partnership with some of the country’s best-known designers and architects, notably William Morris, father of the Arts and Crafts movement; George Bodley, the Gothic Revival architect; and Charles Kempe, the stained-glass artist.
It faced financial difficulties during the First World War and the company was placed into liquidation in 1916.
The building was acquired by King’s College Cambridge in 1936 and it currently operates as a shop.
The working-class Victorian labourer decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and spent decades designing his own with scrupulous care
A fireplace in St Mary’s Passage, Camrbridge, the workshop of David Parr, the Vcitorian designer and decorator who transformed the mansions of the wealthy
David Parr: Victorian decorator paid a pittance to transform the interiors of lavish mansions he could but only dream of living in
David Parr (pictured) decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and used his expertise and knowledge to decorate his own home with minute detail
David Parr was a working-class Victorian decorator in Cambridge who took his work home with him – and created a masterpiece of his own to live in.
Decorators of that era were often paid a pittance to design and decorate interiors and exteriors of private mansions of the rich and famous and Cambridge colleges.
After completing his day job, Parr would return to his humble two-bedroom terraced house and work tirelessly into the night by candlelight to decorate it.
It took him 40 years to painstakingly decorate the walls and ceilings with scrupulous detail.
He turned his own home into a masterpiece with all the craftmanship and artistry he had acquired through his employment.
Parr kept a notebook in which he meticulously wrote down the cost of materials, how long it took him to complete each task and how much it would have cost in labour.
According to the notebook some jobs took him as much as 85 hours and others more than 30 years.
He was a great fan of Morris’s patterns and used some of them to design his own home.
The Cambridge house was bought by Parr in 1886 and he didn’t stop working on it until his death in 1927.
His granddaughter Elsie Palmer lived at the house for 85 years soon after his death and left it largely unchanged.
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Covid-19 restrictions could mean elderly in care homes have no visitors for a YEAR, Age UK warns
Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don’t see their family for a year, a leading charity has warned.
Age UK is worried about the powers given to local health bosses to impose blanket bans on visits, a move to prevent Britain’s most vulnerable residents catching the coronavirus.
Although virus control is important, the charity said visiting restrictions undermine the danger of lack of social contact with loved ones.
It warned a number of care home residents have already died prematurely because they ‘have gone downhill fast’ as a result of being cut off from their loved ones. Experts have previously warned isolation can lead to the deterioration of conditions such as dementia.
Age UK’s warning came after Boris Johnson yesterday announced new restrictions in England in response to rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
He said if the situation does not improve, the measures could last for more than six months to March — a year after the initial lockdown when care homes first shut their doors.
Most care homes in the UK were given the green light to open again in the summer, after the outbreak was restrained.
But since infection rates have gone up again, many are not risking the virus entering and wreaking havoc like it did in March and April, and have reintroduced visiting bans to the dismay of families.
Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don’t see their family for a year, Age UK has warned (stock)
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, told The Telegraph restrictions could leave elderly care home residents alone for a year.
She said: ‘Given where we are now with Covid-19, we worry that more and more care homes will now shut their doors to visitors, either off their own bat or because their local director of public health instructs them to do so.
‘It is crucial that we protect care home residents from the risk of infection, but that’s only one of the two enormous risks that have to be managed here.
CARE HOMES HAVING TO WAIT 15 DAYS FOR COVID TEST RESULTS
Care homes are having to wait up to 15 days for Covid test results, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Managers say the system is so ‘shambolic’ they fear further fatal outbreaks.
With Health Secretary Matt Hancock warning that a virus ‘tipping point’ is approaching, the care bosses demanded a much quicker turnaround.
The Mail spoke to 19 providers which together run 393 homes. Staff or residents tested positive at a third of the chains over the past fortnight and in most cases results came late.
Nine said they had to throw away tests after couriers did not turn up on time. One had to ditch 250 swabs in a week.
Homes need quick results if they are to halt an outbreak.
Several providers had to wait as long as 15 days and in some cases heard nothing back from laboratories. Results should be processed within 24 hours but the supposedly ‘world- beating’ system has been overwhelmed.
Nadra Ahmed, who is executive chairman of the National Care Association, said the testing chaos was ‘one of the Government’s greatest failings’.
She added: ‘I can’t believe they didn’t envisage that there would be an increase in demand for tests and results in a timely manner as lockdown was eased.
‘We can’t deal with a postcode lottery at this critical time. As it stands, it is utterly chaotic, shambolic and a disgrace.’
‘The other is the risk of undermining older people’s mental and physical health by cutting them off from those they love for a long time.
‘There is ample evidence from the pandemic to date that, in these circumstances, many care home residents have gone downhill fast and a number have died prematurely without ever seeing their families and friends again.’
Under the social care winter plan, which came out last week, local directors of public health were given the authority to close care homes if the spread of coronavirus is rising in the community.
Ms Abrahams said: ‘We are firmly of the view that there is no place for blanket bans when it comes to care home visiting.
‘Getting the balance right between infection control on the one hand and protecting residents’ mental and physical health on the other is challenging, but some care homes are showing that it really can be done.’
Already, hundreds of large care home operators in England have taken extra steps to protect their residents just a couple of months after they were given the go-ahead to reopen at the end of July, when cases of Covid-19 in the UK were at record lows.
Wales allowed visits from late August, and Scotland and Northern Ireland from early July.
Some care homes had to shut to visitors in line with local lockdowns ordered by the Government.
Parts of North West England, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Leicester, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently under tighter Covid-19 rules.
The aim is to avoid families bringing the coronavirus into the home and reaching the most vulnerable people of society. The elderly are far more likely to die of the coronavirus if they catch it.
Already 15,000 people have died of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in care home in England and Wales, figures collected by the Office for National Statistics show. And at least 10,000 more died unexpectedly from other causes.
Care UK and HC One, two of the largest national operators, have already closed dozens of homes to visitors, having re-opened them over the summer.
Care homes were shut for at least four months during lockdown, which is feared to have already had a huge impact on elderly residents.
The lack of social contact caused dementia patients’ health to rapidly deteriorate as they felt confused, isolated and abandoned.
But with a long winter ahead, and a toughening of Covid-19 restrictions announced by the Prime Minister yesterday, things don’t look set to improve.
Last week the government announced its Adult Social Care Winter Plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus in care settings.
It came after calls for a clear plan to be laid out for winter following the shambolic handling of the care home crisis in the ‘first wave’ of the pandemic.
The plan included free PPE for care home staff and a £546million Infection Control Fund.
But charities poked holes in the plans, with the Alzheimer’s Society requesting for free PPE to also be given to relatives so they can visit the elderly.
A statement from the charity said: ‘With care homes across the country once again closing their doors, we must make sure people with dementia are not cut off from vital visits from their loved ones.
‘We’re urging the Government to prioritise providing PPE and repeated, regular testing for both care home staff and for family carers.
‘Where this isn’t possible, steps must be put in place to ensure regular contact can continue between residents and their loved ones.’
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR CARE HOMES? A TIMELINE OF FAILINGS
FEBRUARY – SAGE scientists warned Government ‘very early on’ about the risk to care homes
Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, revealed in April that he and other senior scientists warned politicians ‘very early on’ about the risk COVID-19 posed to care homes.
He said: ‘So very early on we looked at a number of topics, we looked at nosocomial infection very early on, that’s the spread in hospitals, and we flagged that as something that the NHS needed to think about.
‘We flagged the fact that we thought care homes would be an important area to look at, and we flagged things like vaccine development and so on. So we try to take a longer term view of things as well as dealing with the urgent and immediate areas.’
The SAGE committee met for the first time on January 22, suggesting ‘very early on’ in its discussions was likely the end of January or the beginning of February.
MARCH – Hospital patients discharged to homes without tests
In March and April at least 25,000 people were discharged from NHS hospitals into care homes without getting tested for coronavirus, a report by the National Audit Office found.
This move came at the peak of the outbreak and has been blamed for ‘seeding’ Covid-19 outbreaks in the homes which later became impossible to control.
NHS England issued an order to its hospitals to free up as many beds as they could, and later sent out joint guidance with the Department of Health saying that patients did not need to be tested beforehand.
Chair of the public accounts committee and a Labour MP in London, Meg Hillier, said: ‘Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.’
MARCH – Public Health England advice still did not raise alarm about care home risk and allowed visits
An early key error in the handling of the crisis, social care consultant Melanie Henwood told the Mail on Sunday, was advice issued by Public Health England (PHE) on February 25 that it remained ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes would become infected as there was ‘currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the UK’.
Yet a fortnight earlier the UK Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling committee had concluded: ‘It is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will become established in the coming weeks.’
On March 13, PHE advice for care homes changed ‘asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell’ – but visits were still allowed.
Three days later, Mr Johnson said: ‘Absolutely, we don’t want to see people unnecessarily visiting care homes.’
MARCH/APRIL – Testing not readily available to care home residents
In March and April coronavirus swab tests – to see who currently has the disease – were rationed and not available to all care home residents suspected of having Covid-19.
Government policy dictated that a sample of residents would be tested if one showed symptoms, then an outbreak would be declared and anyone else with symptoms presumed to be infected without a test.
The Department of Health has been in control of who gets Covid-19 tests and when, based on UK testing capacity.
MARCH/APRIL – Bosses warned homes didn’t have enough PPE
Care home bosses were furious in March and April – now known to have been the peak of the UK’s epidemic – that their staff didn’t have enough access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and aprons.
A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health saw the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’.
Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.
It said the situation around PPE, which was by then mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.
A shortage of PPE has been a consistent issue from staff in care homes since the pandemic began, and the union Unison revealed at the beginning of May that it had already received 3,600 reports about inadequate access to PPE from workers in the sector.
APRIL – Care home deaths left out of official fatality count
The Department of Health refused to include people who had died outside of hospitals in its official daily death count until April 29, three weeks after deaths had peaked in the UK.
It started to include the ‘all settings’ measure from that date and added on 3,811 previously uncounted Covid-19 deaths on the first day.
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