Minister defends Boris Johnson’s attempt to shift blame for coronavirus deaths on to care home staff

PUBLISHED: 10:32 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:51 07 July 2020

BBC presenter Dan Walker and business secretary Alok Sharma; Twitter

BBC presenter Dan Walker and business secretary Alok Sharma; Twitter

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The government has been accused of attempting to rewrite history on coronavirus deaths in care homes after appearing to blame staff for the spread of the virus.

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Boris Johnson appeared to shift the responsibility away from the government as he told reporters: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time.”

It prompted Mark Adams, chief executive of the charity Community Integrated Care, to say the remarks were “at best clumsy and cowardly”.

“I think we’re almost entering an… alternative reality where the government set the rules, we follow them and they don’t like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

He added: “I think this at best was clumsy and cowardly.

“I think what we’re getting is history re-written in front of us, when you could list pages and pages of government failure which the system has had to cope with.

“And to get a throwaway comment, almost glibly blaming the social care system and not holding your hand up for starting too late, doing the wrong things, making mistake after mistake, is just frankly unacceptable.”

Appearing on BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker put the criticisms from Adams to business secretary Alok Sharma, who was left to offer a defence of what Johnson had claimed.

“Well, I’m extremely sorry he says that,” responded the minister. “That is certainly not what the prime minister is saying. The prime minister has been hugely committed to the country throughout this whole process.”

Sharma repeated a Downing Street defence that Johnson was referring to asymptomatic cases rather than cases as a whole. He continued: “What the prime minister was pointing out is nobody knew what the correct procedures were, because we know that the extent of the asymptomatic cases was not known at the time.”.

He added: “We have done our best to put our arms around the care home sector,” before claiming that the government had offered plenty of support to staff “in terms of funds, in terms of testing, in terms of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

“But I completely accept that at the beginning of this process, things didn’t move as quickly as we would have liked.”

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan said he could “no longer look at Boris Johnson “ this morning after his “shameful and disgusting” comments.

“Everybody but the government is going to be blamed by the government,” Piers argued.

“Imagine if you work if a care home, imagine if you know there was an instruction [...] to take people with Covid”.

Explaining how Downing Street had responded, co-host Susanna Reid said: “No. 10 have said that he wasn’t shifting the blame.”

Piers exclaimed: “That’s exactly what he was doing!”

“It’s a total lie, absolute lie... Imagine how they feel in those care homes today, absolutely shameful... It’s Donald trump territory, it’s fake news, he didn’t say it at all.”

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