Virus modeller Professor Neil Ferguson said he is “shocked” at how little care homes have been protected from the coronavirus.

He told peers Britain’s slow start to lockdown was one of the reasons it has the “worst or one of the worst” outbreaks in Europe.

In evidence to the Science Committee in the Lords, the Imperial College London expert added: “The infections in care homes and hospitals spill back into the community, more commonly from the people who work in those institutions. So if you can drive the infection rates low in those institutional settings, you drive the infection lower in the community as a whole.”

The professor said the slow start to the lockdown may be behind Britain's particularly bad outbreak

New figures show hundreds of patients were being discharged from hospitals in England to care homes daily during the early stages of the epidemic.

Prof Ferguson also told peers it was now clear hundreds if not thousands of people entered the UK, mainly from Spain and Italy, in late February and early March.

He quit as a Government adviser last month after allowing a woman he was seeing to visit his home despite the lockdown.

The 51-year-old was visited twice by 38-year-old Antonia Staats at his London home just weeks after recovering from  coronavirus  himself, the Telegraph reported.

Ms Staats is said to be married but in an open relationship, and lives with her husband and their two children in a £1.9m South London home.

He previously said: "I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic.

"The Government guidance is unequivocal, and is there to protect all of us.