“The last thing I wanted to do was blame care workers for what has happened or for any of them to think I was blaming,” said Mr Johnson. “When it comes to taking blame [for deaths], I take full responsibility for what has happened.”
Sir Keir said the prime minister’s remarks were “not an apology – it just won’t wash,” before inviting him again to say sorry. “By refusing to apologise the prime minister rubs salt into the wounds of the very people he stood at his front door and clapped.”
Mr Johnson replied: “He keeps saying I tried to blame care workers, and that is simply not the case. The reality is we now know things about the way coronavirus is passed from person to person without symptoms that we just didn’t know.”
Asked to explain the high death figures in care homes during a visit to Yorkshire on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have.”
The National Care Forum has described the prime minister’s remarks as “hugely insulting” to care workers, while the chief executive officer of Community Integrated Care accused Mr Johnson of attempting to re-write history in “cowardly” fashion.
Downing Street has insisted the prime minister had not blamed care homes for what happened.
“Throughout this crisis, care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances,” his spokesperson said. “The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”