Coronavirus outbreak: 22 deaths at Pemberley House Care Home
At least twenty-two people have died at a Hampshire care home in one of the worst known outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic to date.
The deaths occurred at Pemberley House Care Home in Basingstoke, operated by private firm Avery Healthcare.
The outbreak was first declared on Tuesday, January 5, with 60 per cent of its residents testing positive for the disease, according to sources.
Within three weeks, 22 people had died - over one-third of the home's residents.
It is understood the outbreak started as residents began to have their first coronavirus vaccines. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency (MHRA) said there was no suggestion the vaccine was responsible for the deaths.
Government advice states that one “can not catch Covid-19 from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught Covid-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment”, adding that it may take “a week or two” after the first dose to build up protection.
A spokesman for Avery Healthcare said there were "deeply saddened" by the loss of their residents.
In a statement to this newspaper, a spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of a number of our residents at our care home in Basingstoke, and our thoughts are with all the family and friends who have lost loved ones during this very difficult time.
They continued: “Staff have, and continue to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to protect residents and each other. Our focus remains on supporting the wellbeing of residents, families, and staff as we work through this together.”
Public Health England said the home's manager had been in "regularly contact" and no further support is currently needed.
Hampshire County Council has been contacted for comment.
The care home sits next to the BP Garage in Viables and can house up to 72 residents. It charges around £1,350 a week for residential care. At its last Care Quality Commission inspection, it was rated "good".
This is one of the worst known outbreaks in a care home in England.
A ward councillor has called the deaths an "absolute tragedy" and said that an investigation is needed.
A spokesperson for the MHRA said they were saddened by the deaths but said they were not linked to the vaccine patients might have received, saying: “We are saddened to hear about any deaths which have occurred since receiving COVID-19 vaccination. However, our surveillance does not suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines have contributed to any deaths.
“It is not unexpected that some of these people may naturally fall ill due to their age or underlying conditions shortly after being vaccinated, without the vaccine playing any role in that.
"We have robust surveillance systems in place to rapidly review all reports of suspected side effects to determine whether these are possible new risks, or coincidental.”
Cllr Gavin James, who represents Basingstoke South East for Hampshire County Councillor, said he would be asking questions after hearing the news.
Viables has been a coronavirus hotspot in recent months, at one point holding one of the highest rolling rates in England.
There was an outbreak in cases at the start of December, with 33 cases recorded in a single week.
Since Christmas Eve, numbers have once again shot up, with 211 new cases recorded in the Viables area.
The data does not distinguish where the cases originated from, with the Middle layer Super Output Area also containing the residential areas of Cranbourne and southern Brighton Hill.
Hampshire, excluding Southampton and Portsmouth, has the second-highest number of care home deaths from Covid in England.
As of January 22, 684 people have died from care homes in the area.
It is second only to Kent on the list. It does not take account of population size or the proportion of elderly residents.
Cllr James said care homes were "vulnerable" to the risk of coronavirus. He said: “Once it is into a care home it is very difficult to control it, because people are going to be sharing facilities.
“All you can do is try to stop it from getting in. The important thing now is to ensure that nothing stops the rollout of the vaccine.
“Although I think there have been some serious mistakes I think the vaccine programme seems to be working very well. It is some good news at last.”
The news comes just one day after the UK recorded its 100,000th coronavirus death.
Scientists claimed a 'legacy of poor decisions' has led to the UK having one of the worst death rates in the world.
Labour also criticised "monumental mistakes" by the prime minister in delaying acting on scientific advice over lockdowns three times.
Boris Johnson said he took "full responsibility" for the actions taken. But he said it was too soon to learn the lessons from the pandemic response.
Prof Linda Bauld, public health expert from the University of Edinburgh, said the UK's current position was "a legacy of poor decisions that were taken when we eased restrictions".
She told the BBC the lack of focus on test and trace and the "absolute inability to recognise" the need to address international travel had also led to a more deadly winter surge.