The government’s own science adviser has admitted it was yet to get to grips with the number of coronavirus deaths in UK care homes.
Prof Angela McLean, the UK’s deputy chief scientific adviser, said there were 4,841 deaths in hospital and 2,794 deaths in care homes in the week to 24 April.
The week before the figures were 6,107 and 2,050 respectively, showing that the number of deaths in care homes is rising while they are falling in hospitals.
McLean told the government’s daily press conference at Downing Street: “Whilst deaths in hospital have been falling, deaths in care homes in the week to 24 April were still rising to the extent that in that week, deaths in care homes were about half as many as all the deaths in hospitals.
“I think what it shows us is there is a real issue we need to get to grips with about what is happening in care homes.”
Overall there have been 29,427 deaths in all settings and Dominic Raab, the first secretary of state, said the virus’s peak was continuing to flatten.
McLean also praised South Korea for the track-and-trace system it rolled out in March, which is something the UK is trying to emulate now with an app. The country has a population of 51 million people and has recorded 245 deaths from coronavirus.
“Find people who have symptoms, get them tested, find good quick reliable ways to find people they have been in contact with and ask them to go into quarantine,” explained McLean.
“That is the strategy that has worked in South Korea and South Korea is really the place in the world we can look to and say ‘this worked’.
“They did have quite a big outbreak actually that they brought under control with contact tracing so I think they are a fine example to us and we should try and emulate what they’ve achieved.”
Matt Hancock’s 100,000 tests a day target was missed for the third day in a row, and stood at 84,806 in the latest 24-hour period.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, Tweeted: “We have long called for a testing and tracing strategy. Under pressure ministers promised 100,000 tests would be completed a day. But another day goes by & pledge not fulfilled. Other countries have suppressed transmission with testing & tracing. UK should learn those lessons.”
Earlier in the press conference Raab said cyber criminals were seeking to exploit the pandemic crisis by sending coronavirus related emails and phishing scams to people and businesses.
He warned of “sophisticated networks of hackers” trying to breach computer systems and attack national and international organisations working on the coronavirus response.
A joint warning about groups to look out for was printed on Tuesday by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the US’ Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency.
Campaigns targeting healthcare, pharmaceutical and local government were all potential threats, he said, and the scams were designed to steal bulk personal data and then send it to “other state actors”.
He said he expected these kinds of threats to continue for sometime and the National Cyber Security Centre could offer advice on how to prevent attacks.