Care homes safety a priority as Essex COVID deaths amount to 70 per cent of total

Essex County Council (ECC) says its priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of all care home residents in the face of some of the highest death rates from COVID-19 in the country.

With 70.5 per cent of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the week leading up to January 29, the only comparable authority with a death rate worse than Essex is Norfolk, which has a death rate of 71 per cent, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics.

A total of 103 care home residents died from coronavirus in care homes within the boundaries of ECC in those seven days. The total number of deaths was 146.

In Southend, 10 of the 23 total deaths were attributed to COVID-19 – a rate of 43 per cent.

While in Thurrock not one of four deaths in that week were due to COVID-19.

The situation has improved in the most recent seven days leading up to February 5 when, in Essex, 52 per cent of deaths were caused by COVID-19.

But it is still higher than the average in England and worse than Surrey and Kent.

Figures published by ECC show large differences in the mortality rates across the 12 districts.

In Castle Point, 82 per cent of the total 23 deaths were due to COVID-19.

Stark national figures have led campaigners to accelerate their demands for a public inquiry into Britain’s care home coronavirus crisis after COVID-19 fatalities hit the highest levels since May.

More than 2,500 residents had the virus mentioned on their death certificates in England and Wales over the seven days to January 29.

A spokesman for ECC said: “Our sympathies are with any family who has lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ECC does not run care homes, however it is no secret that homes across the country have been under pressure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This situation is not unique to Essex. Sadly, care home residents fall within a high-risk group for serious infection due to the average age of residents and increased vulnerability to the virus.

“COVID-19 is also very easily spread within enclosed environments once present and unfortunately even more so following the emergence of the new variants which are highly transmissible.

“Across the whole period of the COVID crisis, care home deaths in Essex have been in line with the rest of the country.

“However, in early January the amount of community infection in Essex was among the highest in the country.

“Hospitals and the wider health system were under severe pressure and a major incident was declared at the time. Inevitably and despite the best efforts of all involved, this was reflected in the level of fatality we saw later in the month.

“Our priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of all care home residents and staff. We have put local hubs in place which bring together multiple partners to support individual homes.

“We are also in close contact with providers and provide regular weekly updates to partners on the position across the county.

“If an outbreak does occur in a home, we will work to support staff, including providing additional staff if needed, so that all residents continue to receive the care they need.

“The NHS has made significant progress over the last month in terms of the vaccination programme and care home residents have been prioritised as this has been rolled out.

“We would expect any situation in respect of the number of cases or deaths to change nationally as the vaccine is given to more residents, although this will undoubtedly take time to be reflected in any figures.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter