‘Treating all minorities as a homogenous group is a mistake’


(Photo: Quintina Valero/Getty Images).
(Photo: Quintina Valero/Getty Images).

By Amit Roy

DURING the current pandemic, what more can be done to save the lives of British Asians?

The government has finally rec­ognised there is a disproportionate number of deaths from coronavirus among ethnic minorities. It has asked Prof Kevin Fenton, regional director of public health at PHE (Public Health England) and NHS London, to conduct an urgent in­quiry, whose initial findings will be published by the end of this month.

“PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this coronavi­rus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents,” Fenton said.

Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson is being pressed to launch an “independent public inquiry” in a letter from 50 signatories, made up of celebrities, medics, and coun­cil, union and church leaders, in­cluding broadcaster Konnie Huq, writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, the mayors of Newham and Bristol, and the bishops of Southwark, Barking and Liverpool.

Maybe these are necessary exer­cises, but some urgent steps need to be taken now to save lives that might otherwise be lost.

It is certainly a mistake to treat the ethnic minorities as a homoge­nous group. This virus seems to af­fect black people and Asians in dif­ferent ways. There are even differ­ences between Pakistanis and Bangladeshis on one hand, and Indians on the other. The need of the hour is culturally specific advice on top of the new slogan, “Stay alert, control the virus, save lives”, which is re­placing “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” in England.

Eastern Eye, which I believe was the first publication to point out there was a problem, could perhaps join experienced Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi doctors in helping the government formulate a cam­paign that is targeted at the British Asian community.