LONDON (Reuters) – Britain had no plan to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19 and the decision to send patients from hospital into care homes without being tested for the virus led to the disease spreading like wildfire, Prime Minister Johnson’s former top adviser said.
Dominic Cummings told a parliamentary committee that health minister Matt Hancock failed to honour a promise that people would be tested before they were sent into care homes to free up hospital beds to prevent wards being overwhelmed.
Hancock said last year the government had thrown a “protective ring around” care homes at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Hancock told us in the Cabinet Room that people were going to be tested before they went back to care homes,” Cummings said.
“We only subsequently found out that that hadn’t happened. Now, all the government rhetoric was we put a shield around care homes and blah blah – it’s complete nonsense. Quite the opposite of putting a shield around care homes, we sent people with COVID back to care homes.”
Thousands of elderly patients in Britain were discharged from hospitals to care homes, many of them without being tested for COVID-19, to free up hospital beds at the start of the pandemic.
The widely-criticised policy was blamed for more than 25,000 people dying from the virus in care homes in Britain.
“I’m sure some people were tested,” Cummings said. “But obviously many, many people who should have been tested were not tested and then went back to care homes and then infected people, and then it spread like wildfire inside the care homes.”
(Reporting by Kate Holton, writing by Paul Sandle and Andrew MacAskill)