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UK government failed to protect care home residents from COVID, High Court rules

The U.K. government broke the law by failing to protect care home residents from COVID during the pandemic, the High Court ruled Wednesday.

In March and April 2020, an unknown number of elderly patients in England were discharged from hospital into care homes, having contracted COVID and either died or passed the virus on to others.

Judges concluded this was unlawful because it failed to take into account the risk to vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the coronavirus.

Lord Justice Bean and Mr. Justice Garnham said that, despite there being “growing awareness” of the risk of asymptomatic transmission throughout March 2020, there was no evidence that then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock addressed the issue of the risk to care home residents of such transmission.

The case was brought by two women whose fathers died from the virus, Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris. A barrister representing the two women told the court that between March and June 2020 more than 20,000 elderly or disabled care home residents had died from COVID in England and Wales.

At the time the government said it had put a “protective ring” around the elderly and vulnerable.

The judges rejected other claims made under human rights legislation, and against NHS England.

Before the ruling was announced the government said in a statement: “Every death is a tragedy and we worked tirelessly to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by the pandemic and specifically sought to safeguard care homes and their residents.”

A spokesman for Hancock said the High Court had found he acted reasonably but Public Health England “failed to tell ministers what they knew about asymptomatic transmission” of COVID and “Mr. Hancock has frequently stated how he wished this had been brought to his attention earlier.”

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

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