The Muslim Council of Britain said with the high levels of deaths among BAME healthcare workers and research showing evidence of racism in the NHS, PHE should explore this issue and suggest measures to tackle the “culture of discrimination” (Photo: Tim Whitby/Getty Images).
Radhakrishna N S
By Nadeem Badshah
BANGLADESHI business leaders have expressed fears over the relaxing of lockdown measures and restaurants reopening in July after it emerged they are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white Britons.
They are also worried at the absence of any recommendations or conclusions to protect people most at risk in the Public Health England (PHE) study last week (June 2), which said people from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from the virus.
The entrepreneurs believe people of Bangladeshi origin are at a greater risk for they are more likely to be doing jobs which involve interacting with members of the public – such as taxi drivers and takeaway workers.
Poverty and some families living in overcrowded housing are also cited as areas of concern for the group.
Ruhul Tarafder, who runs Jhal Chilli takeaway in Kent and Ice Hot Merchandise, told Eastern Eye: “I know of around 10 people who have had Covid-19 in our community.
“I went to a socially distanced funeral recently, a Bengali taxi driver around 35 years old who died of Covid-19.
“Maybe, there should be adverts on Bangladeshi TV channels or virtual khutbahs [sermons] spreading the message. We are still too soon in easing the lockdown, there are still around 100 deaths a day. Here in Kent, I only see around one in 100 people wearing a face mask in supermarkets.”
The father-of-two added: “I can’t see a real solution until there is a vaccine.
“My son is at high risk due to a health condition; his nursery has reopened, but I told them he won’t be going yet.
“I need to protect both my sons and my dad and now need to be more careful following the new research.
“I have stopped doing deliveries at my takeaway in case I bring something back home. With drivers and delivery people, it’s risky, it’s why the community is such at risk.”
The PHE study also found that people of Indian and Pakistani origin were among the ethnic groups which had a 10-50 per cent higher risk of deaths from Covid-19 compared to white Britons and age remains the biggest risk factor. But a person’s job was not factored into the analysis which the report admitted was an “important shortcoming”.
There are around 8,500 south Asian eateries in the UK with an estimated 87 per cent run and owned by Bangladeshis. Restaurants have been closed since lockdown was imposed in March. Government guidance in May said some hospitality businesses could be allowed to open their doors in July, while prime minister Boris Johnson said the plan may be pushed forward “faster than previously thought”.
Syed Ahmed, who organises south Asian food festivals around the world, branded the PHE study “shocking”.
He told Eastern Eye, “I am particularly concerned what will happen to Indian restaurants, the majority are owned by people of Bangladeshi origin. What will happen to their business. How will they return to work, their families won’t allow them to return, who would give up their life for business?
“How is it going to be possible to maintain social distancing? A lot are going out of business already. I am fearful.”
Ahmed, editor of Curry Life magazine in London, added: “I am of Bangladeshi origin and have an underlying health condition, I am not going out. The government has been ignoring this for a very long time, they have tried to push it under the carpet, it’s come out because of the Black Lives Matter movement, they can’t hide anymore.
“NHS workers from disadvantaged communities are the real victims. Overcrowded housing, poverty, the gentrification of areas, lack of affordable housing, it hasn’t changed.”
The Muslim Council of Britain said with the high levels of deaths among BAME healthcare workers and research showing evidence of racism in the NHS, PHE should explore this issue and suggest measures to tackle the “culture of discrimination”.
Kamran Uddin, a mosque volunteer of Bangladeshi heritage, said the latest research is “scary and a bit of wake-up call”.
He added: “It’s made me think about the reasons why a person of my ethnicity is more likely to die of Covid than someone of another ethnicity.
“I think the [inactive] lifestyle of some Bengalis and a diet which is full of calories and cholesterol has a big part to play in why we are more at risk.
“I’m definitely more conscious of what I eat and am starting to think about incorporating exercise into my daily schedule as I work from home during the lockdown. I also think the messaging regarding the seriousness of Covid hasn’t hit the Bengali population as it has other populations.”
Angela Rayner, a Labour MP in Greater Manchester, said: “No answers Matt Hancock, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death from coronavirus as other groups.
“My Bangladeshi constituents along with many from the BAME community need answers and want some action.”
Rushanara Ali, a Labour MP in east London, urged the government to act immediately to protect those who are most at risk.
She said: “Locally, we are doing everything we can together in partnership with the council, hospitals, GP surgeries, charities, community volunteers, mosques, churches, synagogues, and other faith organisations to protect people and save lives.
“Unfortunately, this is an uphill struggle. Tower Hamlets has the fourth worst age-standardised death rate in the country.”
Meanwhile, PHE has insisted it published the review in full following claims that parts were removed by government officials.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said last week: “Black lives matter as do those of the poorest areas of our country, which have worse health outcomes.”
He added that action was needed to “level up” the situation.