Boris Johnson claimed in the Commons that he brought in a lockdown on care homes before the rest of the country.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters later that day that Johnson had been referring to government advice to care homes, issued on March 13th 2020. This advice, he said, was “recommending essential visits only, that obviously came before we took steps nationwide in relation to social distancing.” The government issued a general lockdown order to the nation on March 23rd 2020.
However, there is no evidence that a lockdown was ordered. It is true that the document from Public Health England published on 13th March advised home providers to “review their visiting policy by asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell, and by emphasising good hand hygiene for visitors.” Balancing those restrictions, it said that care home policies “should also consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family.” Crucially, individuals were still permitted to visit. This advice did not constitute a lockdown (i.e. enforced isolation.)
When the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown on March 23rd 2020 he provided the following guidance “You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No. You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.”
Reuters spoke to three care home providers in a review of policy towards care homes. The review concluded that there was “no evidence that any such early lockdown was ordered.”
By the first week of June, official figures showed more than 16,000 residents of British care and nursing homes had died.
The Johnson government did put measures in place on March 13th 2020 to advise care homes to “review their visiting policy”. But this did not amount to a lockdown, or anything resembling a lockdown, as guests were still permitted to visit residents. The Prime Minister’s statement in the Commons was false. No lockdown was enforced on March 13th 2020. It was an especially dark falsehood from the Prime Minister because 16,000 care home residents had died by the first week in June. The Prime Minister’s full statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.
We think this false statement to the House of Commons should be treated as a lie. Even if the Prime Minister genuinely believed what he told Sir Keir Starmer at the time, the subject matter was so serious that he was under a powerful moral obligation to return to the Commons and correct the record. It is shocking that he has not done so.