An open letter from our CEO: 100,000 deaths from Coronavirus. Two thirds of deaths are Disabled people’s.

Tue,26 January 2021
News Health & Social Care

This week marks the sobering milestone that the UK has lost 100,000 lives to Coronavirus.

40% of deaths were care home residents. 30% of these people died in care homes, and a further 10% were taken to hospital where they died.

We hear that care home residents are older people, as if that somehow mitigates their deaths. Older people in care homes are Disabled, whether that is through age, Dementia, sensory impairment, or physical or learning disabilities. These people were Disabled people, and they need not have died.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, 59% of all deaths have been those of Disabled people.

This statistic is largely hidden from public view. It needs extracting from the data. You won’t find it in newspaper headlines or TV broadcasts. Because to print it out loud, to show the devastating effect of this virus on a singular demographic, is something nobody dares to say out loud. We will say it out loud: almost two-thirds of those who have died from Coronavirus were Disabled people.

Some people talk about this pandemic as if it is a war. We are not at war. This is a pandemic, run riot, in peacetime. The lives lost are not those of people knowingly going into combat. They are the lives lost of civilians, peaceably going about their day to day business. It is worth noting that even in wartime, in World War II, 70,000 civilian lives were lost. In this pandemic peacetime, the figure is already a third higher than that.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation. He said: “I think on this day I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and of course as I was Prime Minister I take full responsibility for everything that the Government has done.

“What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could, and continue to do everything that we can, to minimise loss of life and to minimise suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage…”

We do not share the view that the government did everything it could to protect the lives of Disabled people. It knew that thousands of us lived in care homes, supported living settings, and received care and support in our own homes, yet  not enough was done to protect and support us.

That is why we are calling for a full Inquiry into the pandemic. An Inquiry which will look forensically at every decision made. An Inquiry that will hear from every family who experienced a loss. An Inquiry that will hear from every Disabled person who bore the extremes of this virus, and from every Disabled person still bearing the weight of Long Covid.

We know that the death toll has still not reached its peak. Action is what matters now. Our country needs to heal. Both medically from the virus, and socially, from the decisions that have been taken to lead us to this point. An Inquiry is as vital for our minds as vaccines are for our bodies.


Kamran Mallick

CEO, Disability Rights UK