Twenty-four people have died at a care home in Durham in one of the worst known outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic so far.

The deaths occurred at Melbury Court, a home on the outskirts of the city which is operated by the UK’s largest provider of private care homes, HC-One. The outbreak infected 62 of the 82 residents.

Carers assisting a patient © PA Carers assisting a patient

Melbury Court offers nursing, palliative care and dementia care and accepted patients with Covid-19 who were discharged from hospital. Four of the people who died were those who were sent from hospital after supposedly having recovered from the virus, the operator said. They are not being blamed for the outbreak which was already underway. The deaths occurred over six weeks and represent 29% of the population of the home, which was last inspected by the Care Quality Commission regulator in March and judged to be “safe”, “caring” and “responsive”.

The fatalities, first reported by the BBC, add to HC-One’s rising death toll from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 infections, which reached 976 on Monday.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with all families who have lost a loved one from coronavirus and we are doing our utmost to support them during this difficult time,” a spokesperson for the home said. “Caring for our residents and supporting our colleagues is at the heart of what we do, and we are doing everything we can to make sure [they] stay safe and well throughout these challenging times.”

HC-One said it had sufficient medical equipment and personal protective equipment to protect residents and that its workers have had access “to a range of specific coronavirus training modules, including on the correct use of PPE”. It said the home was now “in recovery”, with no recent cases of the virus.

Almost 15,000 people are known to have died in UK care homes from Covid-19 and in the week ending 22 May, a third of all deaths were still occurring in care settings according to data published on Tuesday. The north-east of England remains one of the areas worst affected and there have been at least 264 deaths from the virus in care homes in County Durham so far during the pandemic.

HC-One’s chairman, Sir David Behan, has previously criticised the absence of a comprehensive testing regime, saying that “it would have reduced the transmission of the virus and would have reduced the death toll”.

Another severe outbreak came at a nursing home in west London where 27 people died from the virus.