SAGE committee minutes contradict government's care home claims

13 May 2020, 21:39

LBC uncovers SAGE committee minutes which contradict care home claims

By Fiona Jones

Government advice kept in place until 12 March said it was "very unlikely" care homes would be infected - however SAGE committee minutes in February said "there is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK."

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed in the Commons today after the Labour leader said the Government was “too slow to protect people in care homes” during the crisis, which the Prime Minister denied.

In a letter following the exchange, Mr Starmer drew on the Government's own official advice published on 25 February which said it was "very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected."

Hitting back, Downing Street claimed Sir Keir had "inaccurately and selectively" quoted this official guidance which was in place until 12 March before being withdrawn.

Read more: Labour leader accuses Boris Johnson of misleading MPs over Covid-19 care home deaths

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LBC's Ben Kentish pointed to tonight's press conference which saw deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries state care home advice issued on 25 February stayed in place until 12 March because "they had the view that there was no sustained community transmission in the UK."

However, Ben Kentish found minutes from a sub-committee at scientific advisory group SAGE on 10 February which said:

"It is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will be become established in the coming weeks."

Ben reiterated that this was dated 10 February - two weeks before the official care home guidance was issued and more than a month before it was withdrawn.

In the press conference, Jenny Harries also said that it is "very likely" that some of the 10,000 "unexplained" additional deaths in care homes in April were due to coronavirus.

This came on the same day the Prime Minister announced a further £600 million to help tackle virus epidemics in England's care homes.

Downing Street and the Department for Health and Social Care have been contacted for a response.

The Prime Minister's response to Sir Keir Starmer
The Prime Minister's response to Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: No 10

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