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Pressure mounts on government for public inquiry into higher risk of COVID-19 among ethnic minorities


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Pressure mounted on the UK government on Sunday (10) to launch an independent public inquiry into the reasons behind the higher risk faced by ethnic minorities, including Indians, in the country from the coronavirus.

In a letter to British prime minister Boris Johnson, a coalition of around 70 prominent figures from the UK’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds said that COVID-19 has highlighted race and health inequality issues in Britain.

They warn that the ongoing government review, led by Public Health England, into the factors behind the disproportionate impact of the deadly virus on BAME groups lacks transparency.

“Only an independent public inquiry will provide the answers we need. Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic,” stated the letter signed by BAME activists, artists and faith leaders.

“By instigating such an inquiry, the government will provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to submit evidence through a transparent process. This would help to restore public confidence amongst the UK’s BAME communities,” it added.

The group believes that such an inquiry would provide a comprehensive exploration of all possible contributing factors that could explain the outsized effect COVID-19 has on BAME communities, killing up to four times as many as white people in some groups.

The correspondence with 10 Downing Street also calls for the inquiry to probe the “level of exposure” to COVID-19 of BAME staff working in the National Health Service (NHS) and the social care sector, as well as key workers across both the public and private sectors.

The letter to the prime minister comes as the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistic found earlier this week that Indians are among the ethnicities that face a statistically raised risk of death involving COVID-19 compared to those of white ethnicity.

When taking into account age in the analysis, black males were found 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19-related complications and black females 4.3 times more likely than white ethnicity males and females.

According to a study by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC), black patients are 14 per cent more likely and Asian patients 17 per cent more likely to die from coronavirus having received treatment in intensive care compared to white patients.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and it is critical we find out which groups are most at risk so we can minimise their risk. We have therefore commissioned Public Health England to better understand the different factors, such as ethnicity, that may influence the effects of the virus.”