Government guidance withdrawn in March did say it was ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes would be infected with Covid-19

13th May 2020

Claim

Until 12 March, the government’s advice said it was ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes will become infected.

Conclusion

This is correct. Government guidance, withdrawn on 13 March, stated this twice.

 

It’s not true that until 12 March, the government’s advice said it was ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes will become infected.

 

This is incorrect. The guidance did say this. It was withdrawn on 13 March.

Claim 1 of 2

“Earlier this year, and until 12 March, the government’s own official advice was, and I’m quoting from it, ‘it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected.’”

Keir Starmer, 13 May 2020

“It wasn’t true that the advice said that.”

Boris Johnson, 13 May 2020 

In Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 13 May, Keir Starmer said that, until 12 March, government guidance said it was “very unlikely” that people in care homes will become infected with Covid-19. Boris Johnson said this was not the case. However, Mr Starmer was correct. 

Government guidance published on 25 February twice states that it is “very unlikely” people receiving care in care homes or the community will be infected with the new coronavirus. This advice was withdrawn on 13 March, and replaced with new guidance about what to do in the event of an outbreak at a care home or other supported living. 

The initial guidance, for social, community and residential care employers, stated: “This guidance is intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community. 

“It is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected. This is the latest information and will be updated shortly.”

The same document also said: “Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people. It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.”

Mr Starmer has written to Mr Johnson, asking him to correct the record in the House of Commons and repeating the section of the guidance that said: “...it is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.”

Mr Johnson has replied to Mr Starmer, saying that he quoted the advice “selectively and misleadingly” by neglecting to “provide the critical context at the start of the guidance”, and refers to the passage mentioned above which states the guidance was intended for the “current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community”. The Prime Minister says he stands by his comments made during Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Update 13 May 2020

This article was updated to include Mr Johnson's response.