Dr RAGHIB ALI, who advises Britain on ethnicity and Covid, has said that ‘structural racism’ is not a ‘reasonable explanation’ for black and south Asian people’s greater risk of illness and death.
He added that it is time to stop using ethnicity when deciding who needed help, and urged the government to focus on factors like jobs and housing as it help more people.
According to him this approach would help prevent everyone at risk – including poorer white groups living in crowded housing – from missing out on help.
Dr Ali made his comments during a briefing on the first quarterly report on Covid disparities, led by the government’s Race Disparity Unit and the minister for equalities, Kemi Badenoch.
The report took stock of the actions taken and evidence gathered since previous analyses by Public Health England, which set out the greater risks faced by black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups.
Dr Ali is a senior clinical research associate at the MRC epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge and the director and principal investigator of the Public Health Research Center and associate research Professor at New York University, Abu Dhabi.
He pointed out that the older people are, and where they lived, were two of the biggest factors behind the increased risks.
“The problem with focusing on ethnicity as a risk factor is that it misses the very large number of non-ethnic minority groups, so whites basically, who also live in deprived areas and overcrowded housing and with high risk occupations,” he said.
He added the whole population should have a “personalised risk assessment” rather than just targeting ethnic groups.
“It doesn’t make sense to put all ethnic minorities in the same basket as it doesn’t make sense to put all whites in the same basket,” he said.
On structural racism, he said he was not convinced by the narrative that racism played a part in coronavirus deaths.
He pointed out that generally people from BAME backgrounds have better health outcomes than other groups.
The report revealed that people in urban areas with greater population density are at a higher risk of catching Covid-19.
It also found out that occupational exposure, household composition-with larger households at greater risk and pre-existing health conditions are the major factors contributing to Covid-19 fatalities.