A collage showing BAME victims of Covid-19 (Courtesy: OBV)
Eastern Eye Staff
RACIAL discrimination is a major cause of high Covid-19 death rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK, an official inquiry has found.
The revelation came as the media accessed a section of the Public Health England‘s recent review that had been withheld, allegedly due to concerns that the findings could fuel the ongoing anti-racism flare-up.
“Stakeholders pointed to racism and discrimination experienced by communities and more specifically BAME key workers as a root cause to exposure risk and disease progression,” said the document obtained by Sky News.
“It is clear from discussions with stakeholders the pandemic exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities affecting BAME communities in the UK.”
Reports also noted that the unpublished section of the review had stressed on giving targeted health advice in the event of a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
Critics and the opposition led by Labour slammed the government on withholding crucial parts of the PHE report, which had said BAME people were up to 50 per cent more likely to die of Covid-19.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on people from BAME communities is serious, and as the data shows for many it can be fatal. This should demand urgent action from ministers. Instead we have had misleading statements and a lack of transparency.
“We shouldn’t have to reply on leaks. The report should be published in full as soon as possible and action taken.
“Labour have been raising concerns for weeks and calling for greater use of targeted testing and protection for staff on the frontline, for example.”
Last week, the British Medical Association urged the government to explain on why it did not publish “the full report” on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on BAME communities.
The government was accused of a “scandal” after a British-Indian academic, who had peer-reviewed the PHE inquiry paper on tackling the higher Covid-19 risks faced by BAME communities, revealed that the recommendations laid out had not been published.
“Without recommendations there can be no actions,” said Raj Bhopal, emeritus professor of Public Health at the Usher Institute, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh.
He said the recommendations file should me immediately published, and “those who have denied its existence must apologise to the public”.
The Parliament, Bhopal alleged, had “not been told the full truth”.
He said the document — with “every hallmark of a [government] report ready to go to the press” — had recommendations and evidence from about 4,000 people and organisations.
In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities.
“We feel [the review] hasn’t done justice to the aims of having an investigation and it has not done justice to the BAME community.
The letter sought a “clear response” on “why these pages and important recommendations were omitted from publication, especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities”.
The PHE had maintained that it planned to publish further details of the review this week.
“The government commissioned PHE to conduct an epidemiological review to analyse how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from Covid 19. This was published in full on the 2 June,” it said.
“In parallel, Prof Kevin Fenton, on PHE’s behalf, engaged with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of Covid-19 on their communities.
“This important engagement work will inform the work the equalities minister is now taking forward. We intend to both formally submit this work to the minister next week, and will publish it at the same time.”