Covid rips through care homes again with deaths almost doubling in a week
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Coronavirus deaths in Norfolk care homes are now at record highs, with numbers almost doubling in a week.
Despite repeated pledges from authorities to protect care homes - after hundreds of deaths in the first wave - figures show close to half in the county reported outbreaks since December 1.
There have been outbreaks – defined as two or more cases among staff and residents - in 154 of Norfolk’s 350 care homes.
And there were 51 Covid deaths among residents in the week leading up to January 15 - a new record and up from 28 the week before.
Deaths have continued to rise, even as the vaccine is prioritised for staff and residents.
Steve Dorrington, runs care homes in Dereham, Watton and Wells-next-the-Sea.
In his Watton care home, all residents and staff were vaccinated quickly and have since recorded no cases.
But in other locations, Mr Dorrington said he is struggling with severe staff shortages and high infection rates.
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He said hold- ups include a 28-day wait before residents who have tested positive can be vaccinated, and a reluctance to administer low numbers of vaccines.
“In Wells, we have nine cases among residents and 11 others have just come out of isolation,” he said.
“I have five residents over the age of 80 who have been clear for 28 days, but the vaccination teams won’t come out to give so few people the jab. They have to wait until February 1."
He added: “Staff have to get the Pfizer vaccine at Fakenham, which can’t be transported. It’s hard to get staff there in the first place once they are clear of the virus for 28 days, on top of everything else.”
Raj Sehgal, who manages four homes in West Norfolk, and said the last of his residents had their vaccinations on Wednesday.
“It’s a relief, but the mistake of the government was to not plan the rollout until the vaccines were approved,” he said.
“We had a tough time last March with a serious outbreak, but we haven’t had any cases among residents during this wave."
Another care home, which was badly hit by the virus last month and asked not to be identified, said staff and eligible residents had been vaccinated, with only those residents who tested positive within the 28-day limit still waiting for their jabs.
In the first wave, hospitals discharged patients to care homes without testing for Covid, but it is unclear if that is behind the rise in deaths and cases this time.
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said precautions adopted by care homes in previous waves weren’t as efficient against the new variants, leading to higher numbers of cases.
They added the council would put £3m towards rapid testing in adult social care.
But the Labour spokeswoman for adult social care on the council, Brenda Jones, said the numbers of Covid deaths was a “disgrace”, and added the department was likely to face cuts in excess of £25m next year, having already borne the brunt of £80m worth of cuts in the last four years.
“Most people knew there would be more waves, and recruitment and training of extra care staff should have been a higher priority,” she said.
Norfolk and Waveney CCG said it was unable to say how many care home residents have had the vaccine.
Meanwhile, 27 virus deaths were recorded in Suffolk care homes in the week ending January 15 – 46pc of all deaths.
Public Health England and NHS data also shows care home virus cases and admissions to Norfolk hospitals have been rising since early December.
There were 257 Covid cases in care homes in the week ending January 8 – up 34pc from the last week in November.
Since April, 313 Norfolk care home residents have died with the virus.
Care home deaths have doubled in a fortnight across England, with 1,260 deaths in the week up to January 15. Since April, 22pc of care home deaths nationally have been caused by the virus.