Coronavirus outbreaks have been recorded at 92 care homes in the UK in just 24 hours, the chief medical officer has said.
It comes after industry bosses warned daily death tolls are “airbrushing out” hundreds of older people who have died in the care system.
Speaking at the daily press briefing on Monday, chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said around 13.5% of care homes in the UK have registered an outbreak.
He said: “In the last 24 hours there have been 92 care homes where an outbreak has been detected.
“If an outbreak is suspected, public health authorities will go in to do testing to assess if an outbreak has taken place.”
He said he would like Covid-19 testing to be increased in care homes.
Asked if deaths are being recorded properly in such settings, he said: “Everybody who sadly dies, the doctor will make an assessment based on her or his view about what the cause of death is, that’s what the death certificate says in all cases.”
He added: “Doctors take it very seriously and try to make sure that they get as much information to give accurate data.
“One of the things we want to do is to extend the amount of testing of people in care homes as the ability to test ramps up over the next few weeks.
“Because clearly care homes are one of the areas where there are large numbers of vulnerable people and that is an area of risk and therefore we would very much like to have much more extensive testing.”
Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said: “Ministers must publish daily figures of deaths in care homes so we know the true scale of the problem and how fast it is spreading.
“They must also ensure social care has the resources it needs and that vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing get to care workers on the front-line.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Munira Wilson described the news as “worrying”, adding: “With so many healthcare workers on the front-line working without proper PPE or testing, these outbreaks may appear inevitable.
“The Government needs to act and fast to protect front-line staff as well as the most vulnerable in our society who they care for.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said the lack of PPE and testing is leading to Covid-19 “running wild” in care homes.
She joined leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society in writing a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.
Ms Abrahams said: “The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter.”