Devon & Cornwall Police arrest two care home staff members after Covid-19 outbreak may have caused nine deaths

Police have arrested two staff members at a South Devon care home in connection with a Covid-19 outbreak that is believed to have caused multiple deaths

Nine deaths have been reported at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford since February 25, which are all believed to be coronavirus-related.

A 57-year-old woman from Sidmouth and a 30-year-old man from Exeter have been arrested on suspicion of wilful neglect under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, according to Devon & Cornwall Police.

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Both are said to be members of staff at the care home.

A 57-year-old woman from Sidmouth and a 30-year-old man from Exeter have been arrested on suspicion of wilful neglect (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)

No other arrests are currently planned by police in relation to the ongoing enquiry, the force said.

Safeguarding of residents ‘at investigation’s core’

The investigation is being led by the force in partnership with a multi-agency safeguarding response.

Chief Superintendent Dan Evans has previously said: “I’ve no doubt there will be concern in the community regarding this incident and we are doing everything possible to help those bereaved families, while also working with partners to communicate to those with relatives remaining within the home.

'This is a complex investigation involving ourselves and multi-agency partners with safeguarding of residents at its core' (Photo: PA)

“This is a complex investigation involving ourselves and multi-agency partners with safeguarding of residents at its core,” he added.

“There is significant work under way to understand the current situation and progress the investigation as quickly as possible, while maintaining the safety of care home residents, staff, police officers and partner agency staff.”

The force said a “significant number” of residents and staff had tested positive for Covid-19, with the five deaths having taken place since 6 March.

‘They will be deeply missed’

All of the deceased residents tested positive for Covid-19.

Ten other residents have been treated at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, while one member of staff has been in hospital with coronavirus.

A spokesperson for Holmesley Care Home has previously commented: “I can confirm that we are currently dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus in the home and that sadly, five residents have passed away from the virus.

“They will be deeply missed and our thoughts are with their loved ones at this challenging time.

“The vast majority of our residents and our staff team have received their first dose of the vaccine and we hope this may have helped prevent an even worse situation.”

The spokesperson went on to say the care home is “devastated” by the outbreak.

‘No final decision has been taken’

Meanwhile, the latest data from NHS England, published on Thursday, showed nearly a quarter of staff at older adult care homes in England have not been given a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.

76.6 per cent of eligible staff at older adult care homes had been given a first jab by 21 March.

Residents and staff are classed as eligible for the vaccine if they have not had Covid-19 in the previous 28 days.

The latest figures come just days after the Government confirmed it is considering the possibility of making vaccination a legal requirement for healthcare staff.

The plans have emerged amid concerns of low uptake of staff in care homes looking after those who are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

But it would prove controversial, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman previously accepting it would be “discriminatory” to force people to be vaccinated.

The Telegraph reported details of a leaked paper submitted to the “Covid O” sub-committee of Cabinet, which said the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary had agreed to the proposal, but Matt Hancock insisted “no final decision” has been taken.

Hancock previously told LBC that “many” care homes had asked for this to happen, adding: “There’s a legal change that’s required and, as you can see, I’m open to that, but no final decision has been taken.”