More than 16,000 people have died with coronavirus in care homes since the epidemic began, and it is believed thousands of others may have died through the impact of the disease, which prevented many from seeing relatives and brought disruption to their routines.

There are also fears that cuts to healthcare services during the crisis have led to people missing out on life-saving care.

The LSE said the excess death toll in care homes is now close to 32,000 – almost twice the official number of confirmed care home deaths from the virus.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it sought to protect care homes and now offered whole home testing for residents and staff. 

A spokesman said: “We have been doing everything we can to ensure care home residents and staff are protected during this unprecedented global pandemic. Every stage of our response has been guided by the latest scientific advice.”

Last week, the Government announced that approximately 10,000 people across 100 care homes will be given repeat testing as part of a new study into coronavirus to understand more about its spread.

Professor Martin Green OBE, the chief executive of Care England, said: “Care homes are the front line, and this opportunity is welcome. This study is absolutely critical if we are to win the battle against Covid-19.  

“There is still so much to learn about this virus – why some care homes have tested positive whilst displaying no symptoms or deaths, and others have felt the full force of the brutality of this silent killer.”

Minister for care Helen Whately said:  “We know care homes are on the front line of our fight against coronavirus, with the virus affecting older people more acutely than the general population.”

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