Boris Johnson wrongly denies government said coronavirus ‘unlikely to spread in in care homes’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.

Boris Johnson has wrongly denied the government said people in care homes were "unlikely" to get infected with the coronavirus.

Labour leader Keir Starmer pointed out to Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) that the government once said care home residents were not expected to contract the virus.

Figures increasingly make clear the scale of care home deaths from the coronavirus – known to affect older people worse than others – with the Office for National Statistics showing 40% (2,423) of Covid-19 related deaths in the week up to 1 May were in care homes.

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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
A commuter wearing passes a sign telling passes a sign advising passengers to "Avoid this Station right now" at Walthamstow undergound station in London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
Station staff work at a quiet quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two fishermen angle their rods towards the sea on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two men play football on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A police officer wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands with commuters as they travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line trains from Finsbury Park towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past street art graffiti praising the workers od Britain's NHS (National Health Service) and other key workers, by artists Nathan Bowen and Harry Blackmore, in London on April 23, 2020. on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, - MAY 13: A safety sign saying "Pro-Shop open, one in one out, thank you" as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A safety sign on the flag saying "Please do not touch the flags" as a golfer plays as shot on the green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A "Welcome back" and Covid-19 safety sign as a golfer plays on the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A rainbow forms as sprinklers spray over the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
The British Government's new COVID-19 slogan "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives" is pictured on the BT (British Telecom) tower, in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
A sign tells commuters that they need to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face covering, or mask, and observe social distancing as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, at Westminster underground station in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Protective screens and hand gel are seen in a Pret a Manger store on May 13, 2020 in London, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train from Walthamstow towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel waits on th eplatform at Oxford Circus to travel on a TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
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Asking if Johnson had moved too slowly to protect them, Starmer 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 12 March, 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'.

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."

However, the advice appears online, published by the government called "guidance for social or community care and residential settings on Covid-19" – now highlighted as "withdrawn".

Under a heading about facemasks, it stated: "Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

"It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected."

Another section of the advice also says the risk of infection is unlikely in care homes but follows the sentence: "This guidance is intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community."

Starmer has now called on Johnson to correct his statement in parliament.

"At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that government ministers are accurate in the information they give," he wrote in a letter to the prime minister.

"Given this, I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official government guidance regarding care homes."

During PMQs, Johnson also pledged £600 million for controlling the infection in care homes, saying a "huge exercise in testing is going on".

"And, yes, it is absolutely true that the number of casualties has been too high, but I can tell the House, as I told (Starmer) last week and indeed this week, the number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down."

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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