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Coronavirus: Matt Hancock announces launch of new social care task force to 'keep staff and residents safe'

The Health Secretary said the new taskforce would focus on preventing outbreaks of coronavirus (PA)

3 min read

Matt Hancock has announced the launch of a new social care task force to 'keep staff and residents safe' from coronavirus.

The Health Secretary said the "National Covid-19 Social Care Support Taskforce" would lead the next phase of the Government's response to the virus as it continues to ease lockdown measures across the country.

It comes after official figures found deaths in care homes accounted for 29.1% of all registered coronavirus deaths, with those over the age of 80 around seventy times more likely to die from the illness than under-45s.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said the group would "oversee deliver of the next phase of our plan for social care. Ensuring that care homes have the support, the training, the resources they need to control this virus."

He added: "Crucially, this includes working with the care system to develop a plan for keeping staff and residents safe in the months as the lockdown measures are eased."

David Pearson, the newly appointed chair of the group, said the focus would be on preventing infections for all people receiving social care.

"The taskforce will bring together the concerted and determined actions of central and local government with care providers," he said.

"Our focus will be on stopping infection whilst trying to ensure the wellbeing of all people who receive care and support, whether they live in care homes or at home.

"Social care has a crucial role to play in supporting the people who receive care and support and their carers, and our job is to harness our efforts as we go through the various phases of this pandemic and support social care in its crucial role."

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock confirmed plans to extend testing to all adult care homes after he claimed the Government had met their target of delivering tests to all elderly care homes in England by early June.

"We've now sent over a million test kits to almost 9,000 elderly care homes and the care homes themselves asked that they have the flexibility to do the test when it works for them," he said.

"So I can announce that from today, all remaining adult care homes in England will be able to order the whole care home testing service for residents and staff. This service will benefit residents and staff in over 6000 more care homes.

"It will mean that right across adult social care, everyone will have the certainty and confidence of a high-quality coronavirus test whether they are symptomatic or not.

"Certainty over whether or not they are carrying the virus, and confidence that they are doing the right thing both to protect themselves and others."

His comments come after Labour's shadow care minister Liz Kendall accused ministers of being "too slow to act" as she called for more regular testing for residents, staff and their families.

But Mr Hancock insisted it was safe for people to send their loved ones to care homes, saying the epidemic was "coming under control".

"With all of the measures that we've put in place over the past few months, all of the billions of pounds extra that we've put in, it's clear that the epidemic in care homes is coming under control," he said.

"Even those care homes where there are cases have very strong infection control procedures in place.

"In fact, if you look at the proportion of people in the UK who have sadly died in care homes, it is significantly lower than in comparable countries across Europe."

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