No 10 accuses Starmer of ‘inaccurately’ quoting care home advice in PMQs clash

Downing Street has accused Sir Keir Starmer of "inaccurately and selectively" quoting from Government guidance which said in March that it was "very unlikely" care home residents would become infected with coronavirus.

Boris Johnson clashed with the Labour leader over the issue during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, but admitted that the number of deaths in the sector had been "too high".

Figures released on Tuesday suggested that care home deaths accounted for some 40% of coronavirus-related fatalities registered in England and Wales in the week ending May 1.

Sir Keir said the Government had been "too slow to protect people in care homes" and referred to official advice in place until March 12, which said it remained "very unlikely" that people in care homes would become infected.

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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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Mr Johnson replied: "No, it wasn't true that the advice said that, and actually we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown."

The Labour leader then wrote to the PM asking him to "correct the record" in the Commons.

But Downing Street said Sir Keir omitted the preceding sentence which stated the advice was "intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community" and that "therefore" it was unlikely residents would be infected.

By March 12, there had been 31 coronavirus-related deaths in England, including one in a care home, according Office for National Statistics analysis of death registration data.

A source said: "I think what's actually happened is that the Leader of the Opposition has inaccurately and selectively quoted from the Public Health England guidance and that is what the PM was referring to."

Number 10 indicated Mr Johnson would not correct the record.

Of the 6,035 deaths linked to Covid-19 and registered in the week ending May 1, some 2,423 (40%) were in care homes, compared with 3,214 (53%) in hospitals.

Analysis of official figures suggests there have been more than 40,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK in total.

Coronavirus-related deaths in hospitals in England
(PA Graphics)

Mr Johnson said it had been an "appalling epidemic" and that the final death toll would be "stark" and "deeply horrifying" as he sought to explain why the Government has stopped publishing international comparisons at the daily Downing Street press briefing.

He told Sir Keir that such comparisons are "premature" because "the correct and final way of making these comparisons will be when we have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries".

He added: "We do not yet have that data. I'm not going to try to pretend to the House that the figures, when they are finally confirmed, are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying. This has been an appalling epidemic.

"What I can tell the House is that we are getting those numbers down, the number of deaths are coming down, the number of hospital admissions is down."

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Mr Johnson also announced a £600 million package for coronavirus infection control in English care homes.

The Commons clash came as ministers defended the easing of lockdown restrictions in England amid signs of confusion and anger over the new rules.

Moves to unlock the property market mean that, from Wednesday, people will be able to invite prospective buyers into their homes but will still be unable to visit family or friends.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted the Government is taking a "common sense" approach, gradually easing the restrictions as the outbreak is brought under control.

But with ministers encouraging employees to return to work where possible, he urged people not to "flood back" on to public transport, warning that the system will not be able to cope.

The changes to the guidelines in England mean home-buyers and renters will be able to complete purchases and view properties in person, while visiting estate agents, developer sales offices or show homes will also be allowed.

The Government estimates that more than 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to progress their plans to move house since lockdown measures were introduced in March.

Daily coronavirus tests in the UK
(PA Graphics)

In other developments:

– The UK economy contracted at the fastest pace on record in March as the coronavirus crisis puts Britain on the brink of the worst recession in 300 years.

– Police have been told they have no powers to enforce two-metre social distancing in England in fresh guidelines issued by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council.

– Holiday giant Tui is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide with the firm calling Covid-19 the "greatest crisis" the industry has faced.

– A 14-year-old boy with no underlying health conditions has died from a Kawasaki-like disease linked to coronavirus.

– Mr Johnson paid tribute to Belly Mujinga, a railway ticket office worker who died with coronavirus after being spat at while on duty, saying: "The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling."

In other changes – which have not been adopted by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – people will be allowed to take unlimited outdoor exercise and to sunbathe in parks and public places.

They will also be able to meet one other person from another household in a public space, as long as the two-metre rule is respected, while golf clubs, tennis courts and angling have also been given the green light to open.

Restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, national parks and beaches in England have also been lifted – but people have been warned to respect local communities, keep their distance from others and avoid hot spots or busy areas.

Mr Shapps said the Government is adopting a cautious approach – and that restrictions will be reimposed if the transmission rate of the disease picks up again.

"We must understand, we have done so well in the last eight weeks we cannot throw that all away, and so these are baby steps," he told BBC Breakfast.

"If someone visits a home (for sale), that's likely to be a one-off; if you are starting to visit your family again, that's likely to be many more times.

"Somewhere there has to be a line drawn where we say 'This is okay, but this isn't', in order to gradually release things. And this is where that line is at the moment."

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