Boris Johnson must account for official figures showing 10,000 “unexplained” deaths in care homes last month, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Sir Keir said there were 18,000 more deaths in April than the average for that month, but only 8,000 were recorded as coronavirus-related.
He said the government had been “too slow to protect people in care homes”.
Mr Johnson said there “is much more to do but we are making progress” on reducing the pandemic in care homes.
And he announced a further £600m to fight infections in care homes in England.
The money will be funnelled through local councils to help improve infection control by measures such as reducing staff rotation between homes, increasing testing and ensuring small independent homes have access to expert advice.
Mr Johnson and Sir Keir also clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions over government advice issued at the start of the pandemic.
Sir Keir said that up until 12 March care homes were being told it was “very unlikely” anyone would become infected.
The prime minister said “it wasn’t true the advice said that”.
Sir Keir wrote to the PM after the session, to accuse him of misleading MPs and asking him to return to the Commons to correct the record.
But in a letter responding to Sir Keir, Mr Johnson said he stood by his comments and accused the Labour leader of “selectively and misleadingly” quoting guidance from Public Health England..
The advice that was withdrawn in mid-March was based on the assumption at the time that the virus was not spreading widely in the community.
In hindsight, that assumption was wrong and the fear that the virus had taken hold was part of the reason the government ordered the lockdown. At that point the advice was withdrawn.
But the large death toll in care homes is also related to what happened after that point.
Because we did not have a testing network or the right stocks of personal protective equipment care homes have undoubtedly suffered.
The NHS became the major priority and even now not all staff or residents have been tested.
The deaths being reported in care homes have also been a source of concern and confusion for a number of weeks.
Sir Keir Starmer is right to say a large number of deaths are unaccounted for.