FURTHER coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in Winchester care homes over the last month, new figures reveal.

England’s chief medical officer has told a parliamentary committee that ministers and experts failed to recognise care home residents were at risk from workers spreading Covid-19 earlier on in the pandemic.

His comments came as new figures reveal deaths linked to the virus nationally are at their lowest level since before lockdown.

Office for National Statistics data shows that 109 deaths involving Covid-19 were provisionally registered in Winchester up to July 18.

Of those, 59 occurred outside hospital – including 56 in care homes and two at private homes. A further death occurred in a hospice, another community establishment or elsewhere.

That was up from 54 deaths in care homes up to June 20.

The latest figures, based on where Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, include deaths that occurred up to July 10 but were registered up to eight days later.

Professor Chris Whitty admitted to MPs on the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that in retrospect some risk factors around care homes, including workers moving between homes and some staff not being paid sick leave, which meant they came into work while ill, had not been recognised early enough in the crisis.

He added that he would avoid blaming care homes for failing to prevent the high death toll among residents.

“I don’t think any of us would look back on what has happened in social care and say the ideal advice was given and this is the fault of anyone. I personally would shy away from that,” he said.

The Government has been criticised for its handling of social care during the crisis, further fuelled by a June report which confirmed thousands of hospital patients were discharged into care homes in England without testing at the peak of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent criticism of care homes’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic also sparked fury within the sector.

Across England and Wales, 51,021 deaths involving Covid-19 were provisionally registered up to July 18. Of those, 30% were in care homes and 63% in hospital.

In the week ending July 10, there were 366 deaths across the two countries which mentioned the coronavirus on the death certificate – the lowest number since March 20.

It is also the fourth week in a row that deaths have been below the number that would usually be expected at this time of year, based on an average from the previous five years.

The ONS explained that some vulnerable and elderly people who might have been expected to die during this period did so earlier due to the pandemic.

In the four weeks to July 18 in Winchester deaths outside hospital increased by two, climbing to 59.

There have been no new cases recorded in the Winchester district in the last seven days.

There have been confirmed 478 case, the same as on July 23 and three up on July 16.

No deaths were recorded at Portsmouth or Southampton hospitals or Southern or Solent trusts. The figure stands at 605, with no new deaths since the first week of July.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has seen 161 deaths in total, the same since June 29.