At the beginning of May demands for an inquiry were being made as it became apparent that the first 10 doctors in the UK to die from coronavirus were all from the BAME community.
On 2nd June 2020 publication of the much awaited Public Health England (PHE) report ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ was announced by Matt Hancock, the health secretary.
Almost immediately the government announced that UK Equalities Minister Liz Truss MP was to a lead further review into exactly the same issue.
Initial reading of the report announced by Matt Hancock showed that it mainly, if not completely, consisted of previously published data. There seemed to be nothing new.
Two of the headline findings were that after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of white British ethnicity in the UK and that people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to white British.
The report did not explain why this was the cause. Which is what people wanted to know. They are still waiting.
— Rabina Khan (@RabinaKhan) June 2, 2020
Community responses censored
The same day HSJ revealed that the government had censored the PHE review by leaving out a section which included responses from the 1,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence to the review that had been included in an earlier draft.
On 3rd June the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) took issue with the BAME Covid-19 deaths report stating that: “To choose to not discuss the overwhelming role structural racism and inequality has on mortality rates and to disregard the evidence compiled by community organisations, whilst simultaneously providing no recommendations or an action plan, despite this being the central purpose of the review, is entirely unacceptable.”
When PHE first announced the review it stated that it would be led by black doctor Prof Kevin Fenton, Public Health Regional Director for London.
Thank goodness for @The_Crox
The BBC’s community affairs correspondent Rianna Croxford revealed on 4th June that the review had not been led by Prof Kevin Fenton but by Prof John Newton, head of the UK’s testing programme, and that Prof Fenton only “contributed” to the review.
On 6th June the UK Labour Party also accused the government of leaving out of the report vital recommendations that could help prevent BAME people dying from coronavirus.
It goes on.
7th June and the Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch MP, takes to the pages of the Daily Mail to accuse Rianna Croxford of ‘agenda-driven journalism that is destroying trust’. This claim was immediately refuted by the BBC.
Air pollution not considered
On the same day The Guardian reports the Covid-19 BAME review did not consider air pollution as a factor in higher rates of coronavirus deaths among BAME groups.
BAME & single parents hardest hit
A study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex quoted in The Guardian shows that BAME and single-parent families worst hit financially by Covid-19.
The PHE report did reiterate some of the key issues relating to ethnicity and coronavirus.
It seems – but we still do not know for certain – that the relationship between ethnicity and health is complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors. People of BAME communities are likely to be at increased risk of acquiring the infection because they are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk.
People from BAME groups are also more likely than people of white British ethnicity to be born abroad which means they may face additional barriers in accessing services that are created by cultural and language differences.
BAME communities are also likely to be at increased risk of poorer outcomes once they acquire the infection. For example, some co-morbidities (additional health problems) which increase the risk of poorer outcomes from COVID-19 are more common among certain ethnic groups.
People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani background have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than people from White British ethnicity and people of Black Caribbean and Black African ethnicity have higher rates of high blood pressure compared with other ethnic groups.
And data from the National Diabetes Audit suggests that type II diabetes prevalence is higher in people from BAME communities.
What we all need to know is why people from BAME groups more likely to live in urban areas, why do they live in overcrowded households, why do they live in deprived areas, and why do they often have jobs that expose them to higher risk.
We can guess. We need to know for certain. Then we can get those problems fixed.
East End Enquirer comment
Most people living in the East End are not bothered that it now seems highly unlikely that Boris Johnson will complete his first term as Prime Minister.
Quite how he has gone from Brexit Hero to Coronavirus Zero will be dissected after the world returns to some semblance of normality.
In contrast a lot of people in the East End are very concerned about possible linkage between race and their chances of suffering from coronavirus.
Probably because it is a matter of life or death.
The fiasco of the ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 report’ should give all of us cause for concern even when we do not suffer from racism, live in a nice house in a nice area and can work from home on our laptops as needed.
It is unlikely the government will be forgiven for any future failures. Unless it thinks that Black Lives Matters is just a hash tag.