Downing Street and the Labour Party have become embroiled in a spat over official UK government guidance issued in February over the risk Covid-19 poses to care homes, with each side accusing the other of misleading the public.
During PMQs in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer quoted from the Public Health England (PHE) document – which remained in force until March 13. It stated that “It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.”
PM Boris Johnson responded by claiming that it “wasn’t true that the advice said that.” Starmer has since written to Johnson, ostensibly accusing the PM of misleading the British public over the official advice on care homes and requested that he return to Parliament to “correct the record.”
💥 Keir Starmer has written to Boris Johnson accusing him of misleading the House of Commons at #pmqs over official advice on care homes. He’s calling on the PM to return to the Commons to correct what he said. Letter below: pic.twitter.com/gQpWNktJ2a
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) May 13, 2020
Starmer’s letter prompted a defiant response from Downing Street, which accused the Labour leader of “inaccurately and selectively” quoting from the PHE guidance and rejected his claims that the UK government had acted too slowly to protect care homes.
No.10’s denial now casts serious doubts over whether Johnson will accept Labour’s demands for him to return to the House of Commons to essentially explain himself.
Starmer’s team has since hit back at No.10 for suggesting the Labour leader himself wasn’t being wholly transparent with the truth. Starmer’s spokesman insisted that “The British people can read the guidance for themselves. It was official government guidance until 12 March. We stand by the letter.”
Johnson’s administration has come under fire in recent weeks over their response to protect elderly residents and staff in care homes against the Covid-19 outbreak – with issues around the lack of supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Data published by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday shows that coronavirus deaths in English and Welsh care homes had surged to 8,312 by May 1, meaning 40 percent of fatalities linked to the deadly virus occurred in care homes.
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