FILE PHOTO: A general view of homes on July 24, 2020 in Blackburn, England. Blackburn with Darwen Borough have become “areas for intervention” after a spike in coronavirus cases. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A STUDY has found out that some of England’s most ethnically diverse areas have suffered up to four times more coronavirus infections than mostly white neighbourhoods.
There has been huge disparities in the effect of Covid-19 on residents living alongside one another, with densely packed black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities bearing the brunt of the pandemic, The Guardian study of 10 worst-hit council areas revealed.
According to the study, one in 10 people have had the virus in Bastwell, where 85.7 per cent of residents come from a BAME background, four times higher than the rural Tockholes village, which is just five miles away where only 2 per cent of people are non-white.
The data, published by Public Health England and running to 25 November, reveals that the huge disparities in Blackburn with Darwen are repeated across the north-west of England and West Yorkshire.
In Oldham, infection rates vary from 10.1 to 3.5 per cent in 100 depending on deprivation, ethnicity and average earnings; in Bradford, from 9.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent; and in Manchester, from 15.4 per cent to 3.3 per cent in 100.
More than 300 neighbourhoods comprising nearly 2.7 million people in England’s 10 local authorities with the highest infection rates, almost all of which are post-industrial towns in the north-west, it said.
Besides, in these 10 worst-hit councils, the 26 areas with a majority of BAME residents and an average salary of below £25,000 had experienced 7.1 cases per 100 people. This is almost double the average rate in the 22 mostly white areas where most people earn more than £35,000 a year.
Responding to the study, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service and chair of the 2070 commission into city and regional inequalities in the UK, has urged the government for an urgent examination of the issues of how Covid has impacted on inequality, particularly on the delivery of the ‘levelling up agenda’.
Experts said that residents from a BAME background are more likely to live in cramped housing with several generations under one roof, working in public-facing jobs in healthcare, hospitality or warehouses, and are more likely to use public transport, which increase their exposure to Covid-19.
“The government needed to invest not only in infrastructure but also skills and combating deprivation, and properly fund local authorities to rebuild public health capacity. The one thing that left us much more vulnerable to this pandemic it has been the denuding of resources for public health and local authorities,” Lord Kerslake told The Guardian.
Tim Elwell-Sutton, an assistant director of the Health Foundation, said that the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities is a consequence of structural racism and could have been predicted.
According to Prof Dominic Harrison, the director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen council, residents and businesses in the area urgently need more financial help from the Treasury.
“More deprived areas to be prioritised for the vaccine when it is rolled out more widely early next year. A longer-term plan to move new middle class jobs to struggling northern towns post-Brexit is also needed,” he added.