MINISTERS acted unlawfully by failing to isolate hospital patients discharged to care homes at the start of the pandemic, the High Court ruled.
Judges said the Government did not consider the risk to elderly and vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of Covid.
They did not heed chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s warnings that even people who were not ill could spread the virus.
The court said it was “irrational” for the Department of Health and Social Care to wait until mid-April 2020 to advise care homes to isolate asymptomatic patients for 14 days.
The ruling torpedoes former Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s claim that the DHSC threw a “protective ring” around the care sector.
The case was brought by Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, whose fathers died in care homes after contracting Covid.
Dr Gardner said Matt Hancock’s “protective ring” claim was “nothing more than a despicable lie”.
Covid killed more than 20,000 care home residents in England and Wales in its first wave after spreading in early 2020.
A total of 47,496 have now died.
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said the government put a “ring of steel” around the NHS but left care homes to fend for themselves.
Wes Streeting, Shadow Health Secretary, said ministers “ignored” warnings and “cannot claim to have acted to save lives”.
He said: “They broke the law and people died.”
A government spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, our aim has been to protect the public from the threat to life and health posed by Covid-19 and we specifically sought to safeguard care home residents based on the best information at the time.
“This was a wide ranging claim and the vast majority of the judgement found in the government’s favour.
“The court recognised this was a very difficult decision at the start of the pandemic, evidence on asymptomatic transmission was extremely uncertain and we had to act immediately to protect the NHS to prevent it from being overwhelmed.
“We acknowledge the judge’s comments on assessing the risks of asymptomatic transmission and our guidance on isolation and will respond in more detail in due course.”
- PEERS have backed down on demands for a Government rethink on its planned £86,000 care costs cap amid concerns it is unfair to poorer people.
‘GOVT WAS TOO SLOW’
ELIZA Flynn’s 75-year-old mum, Elly, died of Covid at a London care home in April, 2020.
Visitors were still allowed into the home and public testing was not yet in place, despite the UK’s first cases cropping up months earlier.
Ms Flynn said: “In the middle of March 2020, I remember thinking, ‘Why are they not closing things down?
“I spoke to the care home and they said they were following government advice and there was nothing to say they should or needed to. People were still allowed in.
“I don’t understand why the government were so slow to act. Elderly, vulnerable residents were sitting ducks.”
Elly had been in care for years because she suffered from dementia, which experts now know puts people at a high risk of dying from Covid.
Daughter Eliza, who is now expecting her third child, said: “My mum would have loved to meet this new arrival. There is a lot of sorrow and grief.
“Instead of these women going to court, the government should have held up their hands and said, ‘Yes, sorry, we got that wrong.’”
‘STAFF HAD NO PPE’
LIZ Weager’s 95-year-old mother Margaret died of Covid in May 2020 in hospital after catching it in her care home.
Visiting and discharge rules had been tightened by this time but patients with Covid were still discharged into the home and staff testing positive for the virus.
Ms Weaver, from Salisbury, said carers looking after her mother, who was mentally fit but disabled by arthritis, did not always wear PPE.
She said: “My mother is one of 20,000 elderly people the government would like to sweep under the carpet. They were cast aside.
“I believe she contracted Covid as a direct result of placing untested people in the home and the inadequacy of PPE in the home.
“I was misled by Matt Hancock’s claim of a protective ring – there was no such thing.
“I thought I did the right thing by keeping my mother in the care home but, knowing what I do now, I would have taken her out and done my very best to look after her. I never got that opportunity.
“She was a tough cookie and I never anticipated that she would die – it was absolutely devastating.
“I am so relieved that these ladies took on the strain of the court case and got this judgement. It’s a big thank you from all of us who have lost loved ones.”