Study: European care home residents account for 50 per cent of COVID-19 deaths

15th April 2020 / United Kingdom

By TruePublica: On the 9th April, the Guardian reported in an exclusive piece that – “Hundreds of people are dying in care homes from confirmed or suspected coronavirus without yet being officially counted.”

The report went on to say – “More than 120 residents of the UK’s largest charitable provider of care homes are thought to have died from the virus in the last three weeks, while another network of care homes is reported to have recorded 88 deaths.

Care England, the industry body, estimated that the death toll is likely to be close to 1,000, despite the only available official figure for care home fatalities being dramatically lower. The Office for National Statistics said this week that 20 people died in care homes across the whole of England and Wales in the week to 27 March.

The gulf in the figures has prompted warnings that ministers are underestimating the impact of Covid-19 on society’s most frail, and are failing to sufficiently help besieged care homes and workers.

Other homes have reported dozens of deaths as the virus sweeps through vulnerable populations looked after by care workers who say they still lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing to curb its spread.”

And while this is the brewing into yet another scandal involving government mishandling of the crisis, the numbers above are likely to be scratching the surface and COVID-19 related deaths in the UK is likely to be much higher than being reported.

Worrying data from five European countries suggests that care home residents accounted for between 42% and 57% of all COVID deaths. In England, these deaths are not being reported. Clearly, there needs to be far higher testing, resources and visibility not just to understand the data now but for any future pandemics, which we are told are inevitable.

The International Long Term Care Policy Network report states in its first paragraph – “There is growing international evidence that people living in care homes are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections and that they are experiencing high rates of mortality as a result. There are also numerous examples from those countries of care homes becoming unviable as not enough staff is available due to sickness and self-isolation measures.”


Brief country conclusion:

Belgium: The most recent report by the Belgian Ministry of Health (4), on the 11th April there had been 3,346 COVID-19 deaths, of which 1,405 (42%) were in care homes for older people.

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France: The most recent numbers published by the Ministry of Health on the 11th of April declared a total of 13,832 deaths as a result of COVID-19, of which 6,177 (44.6%) were residents in care homes. Of these, 4,889 died in care homes and 1,288 in hospital (5).There had been 93,790 cases of confirmed COVID-19 infections, of these, 35,864 were care home residents. France has an estimated 650,000 residential care home beds.

Ireland: On the 11th April, Ireland had registered 6,444 cases of COVID-19 and 288 deaths, of which 156 (54%) were care home residents.

Italy: Extrapolating this mortality rate to the total number of residents in care homes in Italy (around 297,158, (11) would suggest that about 9,509 care home residents deaths linked to COVID-19. This would represent 53% of the total of 18,000 deaths in Italy as of the 9th of April.

Spain: Between the 8th of March and the 8th of April. According to these figures, there would have been 8,345 (care home) deaths, which would correspond to 57% of the 14,555 deaths due to COVID-19 to date.



Reported data by the International Long Term Care Policy Network


Based on the findings of the report and averaging the number of reported deaths per care home beds across each country, a figure of 1.32 per cent of the entire care home sector will end up dying from COVID. In England alone, there are approximately 456, 500 care home beds, meaning just over 6,000 people will die from the virus. The majority of these deaths will not be reported as COVID related because testing is not at the care home, only in hospitals.

The government has stated it is committing to investigate every death of a healthcare worker from COVID-19 but it is not saying whether there will be a verdict on each death by a coroner. The health secretary Matt Hancock has even gone as far as saying that frontline workers may have got the disease from another source and not the hospital they work from in an attempt to keep perceived numbers lower than actual, as is the case with care homes deaths. 

In addition, deaths from COVID are not being reported from hospices or in private homes.

As the number of recorded coronavirus deaths in the UK passed 10,000, Conservative MP Robert Halfon says he expects a serious inquiry into the way the government has dealt with the virus.


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