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Minister admits 20,000 care home residents feared to be virus victims

CARE homes are in an ‘absolutely terrible’ situation, a minister admitted yesterday.

Just under 10,000 residents have died with coronavirus on their death certificates, but studies suggest the true number of fatalities could be double.

After the government announced a £600million infection control plan for the homes, communities secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) told the BBC: ‘I don’t deny that what is happening in care homes is absolutely terrible. It’s a huge challenge.

‘But we are trying to put in as much support as we can.’ Health minister Edward Argar admitted testing is still not routinely available in care homes but said it was ‘completely wrong’ to suggest they were neglected.

Hospital bosses have hit back at claims they knowingly sent infected patients back to under-resourced homes after a consultant told The Telegraph: ‘We actively seeded this into the very population that was most vulnerable.’

Carrie on clapping: The prime minister is joined by fiancee and new mum Carrie Symonds at No.10 PICTURE: ISABEL INFANTES/AFP

Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said infections may have gone undetected before April 15, when tests were ordered for those being discharged. But he insisted hospitals have an ‘incredibly effective’ relationship with care homes.

Former health minister Steve Brine added: ‘The implication they were systematically discharging people into care homes — as though they were sending a smallpox blanket into the native Indians — that is not fair.’

Daily tests topped 126,000 yesterday but Mr Hopson said even NHS trusts cannot yet secure ‘sufficient, reliable and consistent’ access. No.10 is to look into availability of tests at a care home in Guildford, Surrey, where workers have resorted to living in tents on-site.

The staff want to protect residents by removing the chance of picking up the virus when they go home.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was ‘pretty clear’ testing in the community should not have been abandoned on March 12 but ‘we didn’t have that testing capacity at the time’.

Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said the sector had been ‘completely abandoned’ to save the NHS.