Boris Johnson Refuses To Apologise To Care Home Owners Over Covid Remarks

PM under fire from furious care home chiefs after saying too many "didn’t really follow the procedures"
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Boris Johnson has refused to apologise to care home owners left furious by his apparent attempt to blame them for deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street sidestepped repeated questions on whether the prime minister regretted his remark that “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have”.

The National Care Association called on Johnson to formally retract his comments and one care home chief launched a withering attack on his “cowardly” “travesty of leadership” over the Covid crisis.

Asked if the PM regretted his words, his spokesperson instead tried to clarify his comments, claiming that he had been referring to the little that was known about the virus’s spread in the community.

“He was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time. Nobody knew the correct procedures to put in place were at the time, because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known. We’re learning about this virus all the time,” the spokesperson said.

Asked why the PM hadn’t actually said that, the spokesperson said: “I have nothing more to add.”

Asked again if he would apologise, the spokesman said: “As I’ve just set out, the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.”

Put to him that No.10 was not offering any apology and was suggesting that everyone simply misunderstood Johnson’s words, he said: “I have been very clear.

“We have put in place a comprehensive action plan to protect care homes, including rigorous testing, and additional funding.”

No.10 added that “care homes across the country have been doing their utmost” to keep residents safe “in the most challenging circumstances”. “And it remains the case that almost 60% of care homes have not had an outbreak at all,” the spokesperson added.

Almost 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died with coronavirus, the majority dying in their care home, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

Covid-19 accounted for 29% of the deaths of care home residents between March 2 and June 12 and a fifth of all deaths of care home residents this year.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told MPs today the government had been “learning about this virus from the start and improving procedures all the way through”.

“I pay tribute to the care homes in this country who have done so much to care for the most vulnerable throughout the crisis,” he said.

Nadra Ahmed, the chairman of the NCA, said Johnson’s remarks were “a huge insult”.

“To think they have stood clapping for the NHS and social care and then use the same hands to slap the faces of social carer is absolutely appalling.

“When you think of some of the mistakes that have been made, I am absolutely stunned that he has made those comments and he should retract them.”

Mark Adams, chief executive of charity Community Integrated Care, said the prime minister’s comments were “hugely frustrating”.

“I think we’re almost entering an… alternative reality where the government set the rules, we follow them and they don’t like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Tuesday morning.

He added: “I think this at best was clumsy and cowardly.

“I think what we’re getting is history re-written in front of us, when you could list pages and pages of government failure which the system has had to cope with.

“And to get a throwaway comment, almost glibly blaming the social care system and not holding your hand up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, is just frankly unacceptable.”

Here is the full exchange between Lobby journalists and the prime minister’s official spokesperson (PMOS):

Q: The PM seems to have upset lots of people on his visit to Yorkshire yesterday when he talked about care homes. What did he mean when he said too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures?

PMOS: “Throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances. The prime minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.

“We have put in place a comprehensive action plan to protect care homes, including rigorous testing, and additional funding.”

Q: The implication of what he said is they’ve done something wrong. Is he not suggesting they did anything wrong?

PMOS: “As I just said throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.

“What he was pointing out was that nobody knew the correct procedures to put in place were at the time, because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known. We’re learning about this virus all the time. This is a novel virus and the medical and scientific understanding of it grows as the days and weeks pass by.”

Q: So why didn’t he say that?

PMOS: “I don’t think there’s any more I can add on this. I am just setting out what the PM was pointing out.”

Q: Does the PM regret his choice of words?

PMOS: “As I say, what the PM was doing was pointing out that nobody knew all the correct procedures were because we didn’t know the extent of asymptomatic transmission at the time.

“We know that care providers across the country, and have been doing their utmost to keep those they look after safe in the most challenging circumstances. And it remains the case that almost 60% of care have not had an outbreak at all.”

Q: He’s accused huge offence in the care sector, would he like to retract or apologise for those comments?

PMOS: “As I’ve just set out, the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.”

Q: The National Care Association is asking for a formal retraction, is the PM open to that?

PMOS: “It’s not something I’ve discussed with him, but as I’ve just said to you the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.”

Q: People are viewing this as an insult. Wouldn’t it be helpful for the PM to go out and clarify what he meant? Because the clear implication of what he said was that care homes were somehow to blame, there were procedures they should have followed, they didn’t and that’s why it’s all gone so badly wrong.”

PMOS: “Again, the PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”

Q: What do you say to people he’s just passing the buck here?

PMOS: “The PM’s view is that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.”

Q: So no apology to care homes today at all? He said what he’s said and everyone has just misunderstood it?

PMOS “I think, I have been very clear that the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under what have been very difficult circumstances.”

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