Living with Covid: Six deaths in Northamptonshire care homes linked to virus after government scraps restrictions on visits

NHS England reports 100 coronavirus deaths in county hospitals this year as PM axes self-isolation and testing rules

By Kevin Nicholls
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 2:28 pm

Six deaths linked to Covid-19 were reported in West Northamptonshire care homes in two weeks after the government scrapped visiting restrictions last month.

According to Office for National Statistics data, five people sadly died between February 6 and February 8 where their death was notified by the care home operator as involving coronavirus. A similar death was confirmed on February 15.

They are the first Covid deaths recorded in West Northants care settings since October 5. Public Health Northamptonshire did not respond to requests for comment.

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Charities fear removing the need for testing in care homes will increase risk of residents catching the virus

Ministers lifted all restrictions put in place to help prevent the spread of Covid in adult social care on January 31 with health secretary Sajid Javid saying it was 'a moment we can all be proud of.'

Latest figures showed 32 Covid outbreaks in county care settings during the 14-day period to February 13, involving nearly 400 residents. Of those, half were in Northampton.

When the government made its announcement, there were 41 outbreaks involving 464 residents.

Care charities and health chiefs had warned against Covid complacency after ministers revealed restrictions were to be removed following the success of the booster programme.

Lifting rules on care home visits was a prelude to Boris Johnson announcing his 'living with Covid' plan on Monday (February 21), ending requirements to test or quarantine.

The Prime Minister said it was time to be 'moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility.' Yet doctors and health charities say the move leaves vulnerable people feeling abandoned.

Government figures showed 4,200 new positive Covid tests countywide in seven days to Monday (February 21), nearly 1,500 down on the previous week.

Twelve more people sadly died while being treated for Covid at Northampton General Hospital between February 9 and February 15, while NGH and Kettering General Hospital have seen the 104 deaths among Covid patients this year following the announcement of four previously unreported victims on Tuesday (February 22).

Latest NHS England data also showed 136 Covid patients were being treated at the two hospitals on Tuesday (February 15), still around ten percent of the total bed space.

The BMA, which represents all UK doctors, said the PM's plan is likely to cause 'more uncertainty and anxiety.'

Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "Living with Covid-19 must not mean ignoring the virus all together – which in many respects the Government’s plan in England seems to do.

"The government says it will keep monitoring the spread of the virus and asks individuals to take greater responsibility. But by removing free testing for the vast majority ministers are taking away the central tool to allow both of these to happen.

"Providing free tests to clinically vulnerable people – and only once they develop symptoms and are potentially very unwell - but not providing free tests to friends or family who come into contact with them is completely illogical.

"The priority should be protecting them from infection in the first place. The same goes for care home staff, who will only be tested if they have symptoms, by which time they could have passed on the virus to vulnerable residents."

Groups representing vulnerable individuals also voiced concerns.

Disability equality charity Scope said it would usher in a life of 'living with fear' while the MS Society said the scrapping of free universal testing is 'not only reckless but dangerous.'