Almost 33,000 people have now died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus.
Across all settings, the Department for Health said the death toll stands at 32,692. It rose by 627 on Tuesday, on the eve of lockdown restrictions being relaxed in England.
Boris Johnson has pledged £600m for care home infection control after thousands of fatalities among vulnerable older people.
Sir Keir Starmer opened Prime Minister’s Questions by referring to previous government advice that said ‘there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community’.
He said: ‘In his speech on Sunday the Prime Minister said we need to rapidly reverse the awful epidemic in our care homes, but earlier this year, and until March 12, the Government’s own official advice was, and I’m quoting from it, “it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected”.
‘Yesterday’s ONS figures show that at least 40% of all deaths from Covid-19 were in care homes.
‘Does the Prime Minister accept that the Government was too slow to protect people in care homes?’
Mr Johnson replied: “No Mr Speaker it wasn’t true that the advice said that, and actually we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown.”
‘What we’ve seen is a concerted action plan to tackle what has unquestionably been an appalling epidemic in care homes.’
He added: ‘And a huge exercise in testing is going on, a further £600 million I can announce today for infection control in care homes, and yes it is absolutely true that the number of casualties has been too high but I can tell the House, as I told (Sir Keir) last week and indeed this week, the number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down.”
Keir Starmer said he was ‘surprised the prime minister queried the advice of his own government up to March 12’.