A FURTHER 18 people in East Lancashire care homes have died from confirmed or suspected coronavirus since last week.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that at least 47 people in the east of the county have died in care homes between March 1 and May 1.

However, the true number is expected to be higher due to a delay in the confirmation of deaths.

So far, six coronavirus-related deaths in Blackburn with Darwen (BwD) homes have been reported.

In Burnley, seven deaths have been registered in care homes – the same as last week.

Hyndburn has seen five new care home deaths, bringing the total to 11 in the borough.

Care homes in Pendle have reported seven deaths in total so far - an increase of one.

The figures show Rossendale has had four more deaths reported in the past week, bringing its total to eight.

Ribble Valley has seen the largest increase in the past week, with six more care home deaths reported.

Responding to the figures Sayyed Osman, director of adults and prevention at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of any deaths in care settings and our thoughts are with the families and friends.

“We continue to work closely with all of our care homes and care home providers during this unprecedented national crisis to do all we can to protect and safeguard vulnerable residents.

“This has included daily calls to monitor and review information, steps made to ensure PPE training is up-to-date, the organisation of the provision of extra support via district nurses and other direct support work to ensure staff are given the assistance they need to manage Covid-19 cases.

“We are also working with the Lancashire Resilience Forum and other councils to track information daily and consistently.

“We must again salute the staff who are facing these extremely difficult circumstances head on with unbelievable commitment and care.”

Lancashire County Council’s Labour group leader, Azhar Ali, said: “I think it’s 18 too many and it stems from the government’s lack of clarity and the confusion with conflicting statements that they keep making. The lack of PPE to protect frontline workers in our care homes and people who go and visit people in the community is absolutely shocking.

“There are still people complaining about the lack of protective equipment and there are still care organisations concerned about having enough PPE to get through the next few weeks. We need to continue to employ people to stay at home, we need to put care workers as a top priority to ensure that we minimise the number of deaths in those homes.

"Lancashire County Council has been working hard and the chief executive has been in the office has been working very hard to rectify the mistakes at a national level.

“We have to focus on working with the Lancashire Resilience Forum to make sure that all frontline workers, whether it’s in the hospital setting or in a community setting, or care homes, have adequate PPE.”

The new data confirmed that almost 40 per cent of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales have been in care homes.

A total of 8,312 coronavirus-related care home deaths have occurred in the countries.

Responding to the criticism, a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and we are working around the clock to give the social care sector the equipment and support they need to tackle this unprecedented global pandemic.

“This includes continuing to make sure millions of items of PPE are available to care workers and using our increased testing capacity to test care home residents, staff and their families, regardless of symptoms.

“We are continuing to work closely with the ONS, PHE and the CQC so we have all the information needed to continue our fight against this virus.”