Sage was warned in April that coronavirus could spread to nine in 10 care homes

It was feared that coronavirus could go on to infiltrate at least nine in 10 care homes in England during the pandemic, experts warned in April.

At least 90% of homes were expected to see at least one case if transmission rates stayed stable, according to a document sent to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government.

The authors of the paper, from the University of Manchester, also suggested that staff working in multiple care homes could be spreading the virus between them.

The paper, Preliminary analysis of Public Health England (PHE) Care Home data, is dated April 2020 and was written by Ian Hall and Hugo Lewkowicz.

It shows new reported outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes “rose rapidly” in early to mid-March before plateauing from late March.

The authors write: “A natural conclusion is that with no change in disease transmission in future we might expect at least 90% of care homes to report at least one case eventually if current reporting trends are maintained (currently about 20% have reported such).

“Given social distancing timing it does not appear to affect these outbreaks.

“However, it may be that the vehicle of connecting care homes is the staff, and staff seem to be suffering disease at (a) similar number to residents (though reason for staff absence is unclear in the data and may be that staff are absent for precautionary reasons).

“If staff work in multiple care homes then these high attack rates may lead to depletion of susceptible staff and so reduce transmission in time.

“Moreover, staff interact with households and community and so infection can be passed to and from care homes in this manner.”

But the authors caution that this is “uncertain” and therefore should not be factored into planning yet.

They also say the force of infection in care homes is proportional to the number of nearby care homes with outbreaks.

They continue: “This is an approximation, clearly a physical home cannot infect another, but staff working between homes, staff becoming infected from community or infected visitors (prior to lockdown) may pass infection.”

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