Government must act as charities warn of rough sleepers facing greater risk from coronavirus

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Homelessness charities have urged the government to provide guidance on protecting “particularly vulnerable” rough sleepers from the coronavirus.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said people sleeping on the streets were at a higher risk “because they are more likely to have a range of existing health conditions”. Moreover, they may be unable to wash their hands regularly or self-isolate if they fall ill.

Healthcare charity Pathway also warned that:

the spread of communicable disease can be swift for people without adequate access to hygiene facilities or a safe home.

Deaths of homeless people have already risen significantly in recent years. The latest available official data recorded 726 deaths on the streets in 2018, up from 482 in 2013.

(PA Graphics)

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Both Crisis and Shelter said they’d contacted the government but as yet hadn’t received any advice on controlling the risk Covid-19 posed.

Sparkes added:

This guidance must set out what measures Government is taking to ensure rough sleepers get appropriate health checks, what accommodation will be provided so that people can self-isolate and advice for the public on how best they can support people who are homeless during the coronavirus outbreak.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, told the PA news agency:

We’ve reached out to the Government and know they’re looking at guidance for people sleeping rough or living in shared hostel accommodation.

The government said it would provide further guidance “shortly”. A spokesperson told PA:

We are already working closely with local authorities to support vulnerable groups including homeless people

There were 163 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK as of 9am on Friday, up from 115 cases reported at the same time on Thursday. According to recent figures from local councils, almost 25,000 people were sleeping rough in 2019.

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