“BAME communities have suffered nearly a year of unimaginable tragedy, grief & trauma, which has been exacerbated by the Tory government’s abject failure to act swiftly to control the virus & protect the population.”Apsana Begum MP.
Data has consistently shown that those from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to feel the effects of Covid-19, and our Black, Asian and minority group communities have suffered nearly a year of unimaginable tragedy, grief and trauma, which has been exacerbated by the Tory government’s abject failure to act swiftly to control the virus and protect the population.
To give one example, data in a study from the University of Manchester has showed that those from a Bangladeshi or Pakistani background have a more than three times higher risk of Covid-19 related mortality, compared to those from a White British background. This same study found that Black people have a risk that is four times higher.
Part of the reason for such risk disparity is historical socioeconomic differences. Those from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are overrepresented in careers such as social care, manual employment, and other jobs that cannot be done from home, and are therefore associated with a greater exposure to the virus.
Further to this, BAME people are more likely to live in overcrowded housing, making transmission much more likely. 24% of Bangladeshis live in overcrowded housing compared with just 2% of White British households.
Both of these above factors are the results of years of structural racism in our country that we must continue to dismantle. We must strive for a future where ethnicity is not a factor that determines mortality.
However, whilst doing this we must also act to combat the results of racist structures as they affect us in the present day. There are real and direct actions that can be taken which would lessen the disparity in Covid-19 deaths between ethnic groups – and it is a complete disgrace that ministers are refusing to acknowledge the disproportionality in deaths in the BAME community, caused by racial discrimination, inequality and the overrepresentation of minorities working in health and care services.
I believe that ethnicity data must be monitored in both the recording of Covid numbers, and within the rollout of the vaccine. This data must then inform future policy.
The Government have correctly prioritised the clinically vulnerable in the rollout of the vaccine, which takes into account age and pre-existing medical health conditions. However, they are yet to build in ethnicity statistics to this policy.
To account for ethnicity when organising the vaccine’s rollout would simply be to follow the data that has been collected.
Whilst it might be true the overwhelming indicator of mortality from Covid-19 is age, it’s clearly not the only factor. It clearly wouldn’t be beyond the Government to include ethnicity as a factor, and to therefore categorise those from BAME backgrounds as ‘at risk’.
Similarly, the uptake for the vaccine has been shown to be lower within BAME communities than White British communities.
With the pandemic in its most dangerous phase, the government must change course and adopt a policy of prioritising vaccines for those in the BAME community who are most vulnerable to Covid.