Almost 50 people have lost their lives to coronavirus in Swindon’s care homes, it was revealed yesterday.

Figures published by the Care Quality Commission, which regulates care homes across England, showed 49 deaths linked to the virus had been reported to the watchdog between April 10 and May 8. It included 11 deaths in the first week of May.

Swindon had the fewest number of coronavirus outbreaks in care homes out of any area in the south west, according to data released by Public Health England.

Since the start of March, 13 homes had reported an outbreak of the virus. There are 51 care homes registered with the authorities in the town. Wiltshire had the second highest number of outbreaks in the region, with 50 incidents reported to Public Health England.

Coun Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for adults and health, said: “We would like to extend our sympathies to all those who have lost a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic. Each and every death is an absolute tragedy and my heart goes out to all the families and the staff who have cared for our residents during this time.

“The council is working closely with key partners across the health and social care system, including the NHS and Public Health England, to provide extra support to homes across the borough who are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks.

“This support ensures that Covid-19 guidance is followed, personal protective equipment is available and used correctly and staff have had sufficient training to protect themselves and the residents they are caring for.

“Each care home has a named contact from the council and the Clinical Commissioning Group so that help and support offered meets the needs of our homes.”

In his speech to the nation on Sunday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We must reverse rapidly the awful epidemics in care homes and in the NHS, and though the numbers are coming down sharply now, there is plainly much more to be done.”

And while the Department of Health and Social Care has said it was supporting the social care sector with £3.2bn given to councils to help deal with the impact of the pandemic on public services, some home bosses have warned that the sector is facing significant financial hardship.

Nicola Richards, director of Sheffield-based care home group Palms Row Health Care, said the sector is on a cliff edge, with homes across the UK facing closure as they devote an extra £38.6m per week to Covid-19 expenses .

Asked last night about what extra support the government would be giving to care homes, Business Secretary Alok Sharma spoke about the furlough scheme and business interruption loans.