BRITISH health authorities have revealed that one of the reasons why the Covid-19 pandemic spread so rapidly across the country is because care home staff supplied by agencies unwittingly spread the virus in their places of work.
With 246,406 cases of coronavirus, the UK has the second highest casualty rate in the world, behind the US as a total of 34,796 have died from the virus. Particularly hard-hit have been care homes for the elderly where there has been a very high casualty rate as the inform have been particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.
According to a recent government report on the matter which used genome tracking to investigate outbreaks, temporary care workers transmitted Covid-19 between care homes as cases surged. It pointed out that agency workers, often employed on zero-hours contracts, unwittingly spread the infection as the pandemic grew, according to the study by Public Health England (PHE).
Genome tracking research into the behaviour of the virus in six care homes in London found that, in some cases, workers who transmitted coronavirus had been drafted in to cover for care home staff who were self-isolating expressly to prevent the vulnerable people they look after from becoming infected. At least 22,000 people are estimated to have died in care homes in England and Wales directly or indirectly from Covid-19.
While the peak appears to have passed, the crisis is far from over for the country’s 400,000 care home residents, with some providers reporting fresh outbreaks and hospitalisations last weekend. During flu pandemic planning in 2018, a report from social care directors warned ministers that frontline care workers would need advice on controlling cross-infection but this advice appears to have been ignored.
Results from the PHE study, conducted over the Easter weekend from April 11 to 13, have been known about inside the Department of Health and Social Care since at least the end of last month, but were only circulated last week to care home providers, councils and local directors of public health. It was referenced as part of a £600m infection control plan, which adult social care directors said came tragically late in the day, given the peak of deaths in care homes appeared to have already passed.
Nigerians form a important body of care home staff in the UK, with a lot of them supplied by agencies. There is also a large contingent of National Health Service workers who are of Nigerian extraction like nurses and doctors.