Downing Street has resisted calls for Boris Johnson to apologise for claiming some care workers "didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus outbreak.
The comments were branded "a real slap in the face" and "clumsy and cowardly" by medics and campaigners – and the prime minister is facing calls to retract them.
Number 10 has stuck by the statement, made in response to a call from the head of NHS England to adequately fund the adult social care sector within a year.
"We discovered too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures in the way that they could have," Mr Johnson said on a visit to Goole, Yorkshire, on Monday.
A government spokesperson clarified later that day he had been pointing out "nobody knew what the correct procedures were" because the amount of people with no COVID-19 symptoms transmitting the virus was unknown.
Mr Johnson's spokesman, asked during a Westminster briefing on Tuesday if he would apologise, said: "The PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances."
Labour's shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth claimed care workers had been left "insulted" and "hurt", called for an apology and challenged the government to explain which care homes didn't follow which procedures.
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Matt Hancock, the health secretary, declined to publicly criticise the original statement.
"Throughout this crisis, care homes have done amazing work," he told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
"The prime minister was explaining, because asymptomatic-type transmission was not known, the correct procedures were therefore not known.
"We've been constantly learning about this virus from the start and improving procedures all the way through."
And the business secretary stuck to the same script when he spoke to Sky News' Kay Burley@Breakfast earlier on.
Alok Sharma said he "noted" the criticism of Mr Johnson but insisted "nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time".
But voices from outside government have been highly critical.
Nadra Ahmed, the chair of the National Care Association, told Sky News: "I'm absolutely stunned the prime minister thought it was appropriate for him to make that comment and I think he should retract that comment and apologise."
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: "Care homes across the country were dealing with an extraordinary amount of different guidance that was coming out from government on an almost daily basis.
"So for the suggestion that tRead More – Source