One in four care homes in London has been hit by COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Sky News has learned, raising fears about the rapid spread of coronavirus among those most vulnerable to the disease.
Around 350 care homes in the capital have declared an outbreak of COVID-19, Public Health England confirmed on Saturday.
The figure, which was correct as of 16 April, means that around 25% of care homes have reported outbreaks.
Coronavirus is hitting care homes in London harder than in other parts of the country, where 3,000 care homes have reported an outbreak of COVID-19, according to Public Health England.
The crisis in the capital may be worse than these figures indicate, as Sky News has learned that the leader of one London council was told on Friday that 387 of the city's care homes had declared outbreaks.
Care homes are required to notify several bodies about outbreaks of coronavirus, including the Care Quality Commission and Public Health England, which then report to directors of public health in local authorities.
The new figures may reopen the argument about the spread of coronavirus in care homes, after care home bosses and GPs said the number of those killed was far higher than the official figures.
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Coronavirus deaths are not included in the government's records of fatalities unless the victim has been tested for coronavirus, meaning that many care home deaths are not reported.
The government announced this week that care home residents showing coronavirus symptoms will be tested, along with care home workers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday that 15% of care homes – one in seven – had reported cases of the virus, although he only referred to homes with "two or more cases".
Mr Hancock described the figure as "robust", but care home bosses have argued the real figures may be much higher.
Speaking on Tuesday to the BBC, Sir David Behan, executive chairman of care home company HC One, said coronavirus was "present in 232 of our homes which is about two-thirds of the total number of homes that we run".