Appearing at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Johnson had no answer to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer when asked about 10,000 excess deaths in care homes in April.
Starmer told Johnson: “The ONS [Office for National Statistics] records the average number of deaths in care homes each month. For the last five years, the average for April has been just over 8,000.
“This year, the number of deaths for care homes in April was a staggering 26,000. That’s three times the average: 18,000 additional deaths this April.
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“Using the government’s figures, only 8,000 are recorded as COVID deaths. That leaves 10,000 additional and unexplained care home deaths this April.”
Starmer called for Johnson’s views on these unexplained deaths – but the PM was unable to answer.
“Well,” Johnson said, “coronavirus is an appalling disease which afflicts some groups far more than others and in particular the elderly.
“He’s right to draw attention to the tragedy that has been taking place in care homes.
“The ONS is responsible for producing the data. The government has also produced data which shows there has been a terrible epidemic in care homes – but since the care homes action plan began, we are seeing an appreciable and substantial reduction not just in the number of outbreaks but also the number of deaths.
“I want to stress to the House, but also the country, that solving the problem in care homes is going to be absolutely critical to our ability to move forward as a nation. We must fix it and we will.”
Starmer responded by saying “solving the problem… can only happen if the numbers are understood”.
“I was disappointed the PM doesn’t have an answer to the pretty obvious question as to what are those 10,000 unexplained deaths?”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, sitting with Starmer on the opposition frontbench during PMQs, said it was “very concerning” Johnson didn’t answer Starmer’s question.
It come amid reports on Wednesday afternoon that more than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 – more than double the official figure.