#BLM, Science

Racial inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic to be further investigated

A new report carried out by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) aims to explore how coronavirus has contributed to “the loss of lives and livelihoods” within Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. A government-driven report was published in June that showed the heightened Coronavirus death rates within minority communities. The Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, Gill Furniss, inquired why the Public Health England review failed to recommend instrumental methods to reduce the disproportionate number of deaths. In reply Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch stated that this was a “short term review that makes firm conclusions”. Ms Badenoch also told MPs that the UK was “one of the best countries in the world to be a black person”. 

It is estimated that 20% of Black African women work within the health and social care sector, and Pakistani men are 90% more likely to work within healthcare than their white counterparts. When read alongside the report published by The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the figures are even more concerning. When accounting for differences in location, age and sex the coronavirus death rate for those of Black African heritage is an estimated 3.5 times higher than those of white heritage. Whilst the death rate for those of Pakistani heritage have approximately a 2.7 times more elevated death rate than white populations. This is also reflected within patient reports: over a third of all critically ill COVID-19 patients are from BAME backgrounds, despite only accounting for 13% of the overall UK population.

Socio-economic factors have also been linked to these figures with poverty rates being twice as prevalent within the BAME communities compared to white equivalents. The Office of National Statistics states that the death rate in the poorest communities throughout England and Wales is double that of the wealthiest in our society. A government statistic reported BAME communities are significantly more likely to live in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods. 

According to the IFS, those of Asian or Black descent have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, which can be linked to a higher coronavirus death rate. Problems with isolation in bigger households is another risk factor that also comes into play. Just under a third of Bangladeshi households and 15% of Black African households are classified as overcrowded, compared with just 2% of white households. 

This new investigation aims to further highlight the ingrained systemic racial inequality within our country. This follows the Black Lives Matter protests stimulated by the murder of George Floyd in May. It is evident that many presume Covid-19 affects us all equally, however the imbalance within our society needs to be continuously accounted for. The EHRC report aims to address “serious issues that have not been answered” with the hope of providing recommendations based on these findings. 

Marsha de Cordova, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, supported further investigation into the matter, stating that “the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on these inequalities, but the government has consistently failed to take action to save BAME people’s lives during this pandemic”. 

The lack of official governmental response to this issue is what drives continuous concern, as the likelihood of another wave of COVID-19 could once again be detrimental to BAME communities. The EHRC report intends to show these ongoing issues in the hope that the necessary steps will be eventually enforced to help those most at risk.

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Emily Hawkes