Coronavirus has begun spreading through care homes and infecting vulnerable patients again, the Government has admitted in a nationwide alert issued to providers and local authorities.

A letter, seen by The Telegraph, was issued late on Friday urging bosses to “take necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks” amid rising infection rates among the elderly.

The letter, written by Stuart Miller, the director of adult social care delivery at the Department of Health and Social Care, warns all care providers, local authority chief executives and directors of adult social care that there are the “first signs” of rising infections being “reflected in care homes”.

He writes: “Over the past three days, Public Health England has reported an increase in notifications of Covid-19 cases in care homes. Testing data has also shown an increase in the number of positive results.

“Currently, the infections are mainly affecting the workforce, but clearly there is a risk the virus will spread to care home residents, or to other parts of the care sector. Unfortunately, in some care homes with recent outbreaks, this does appear to have occurred, with residents also becoming infected.”

On Saturday, Sir Mark Walport, a former chief scientific adviser, warned that Britain is “on the edge of losing control” of coronavirus.

While Mr Miller’s letter does not reveal whether any patients have died, it will lead to fears that the virus could spread widely among the most vulnerable patients again.

Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died between March and June this year compared to the same period in 2019, the latest Office for National Statistics figures from July have shown, with two thirds of the deaths directly attributable to Covid-19 (see graphic below, showing excess deaths by location).

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