Coronavirus: Labour calls for inquiry into 'disproportionate' number of ethnic minority deaths

‘The government must urgently investigate,’ says shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova

Peter Stubley
Saturday 11 April 2020 18:43 BST
Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury warned Boris Johnson about the lack of protective equipment in the NHS before his death
Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury warned Boris Johnson about the lack of protective equipment in the NHS before his death (PA)

Labour has called for a government inquiry into why black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said the disproportionate number of deaths of doctors from these communities in the UK was “deeply disturbing”.

“It reflects the shocking underlying inequalities facing BAME communities as a whole, who are disproportionately represented in the numbers of people getting the virus,” she said.

“The Government must urgently investigate why BAME communities are more vulnerable to this virus.”

A report on the first 3,883 patients critically ill with Covid-19 found that just over a third were non-white, compared to 18 per cent of the total UK population.

And while around 44 per cent of NHS medical staff are BAME, the first 10 doctors named as dying from coronavirus were from those communities.

They include Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a 53-year-old urologist from east London, Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old consultant in the Midlands, Sudanese organ transplant consultant Adil El Tayar, 63, and 68-year-old Dr Alfa Saadu, who returned from retirement to help out at a hospital in Hertfordshire.

The chairman of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, told The Guardian “it seems hard to see how this can be random”.

“There’s a disproportionate percentage of BAME people getting ill,” he added. “We have heard the virus does not discriminate between individuals but there’s no doubt there appears to be a manifest disproportionate severity of infection in BAME people and doctors.

“This has to be addressed – the government must act now.”

He suggested that it may be due to the high numbers of BAME people in key worker roles.

“You’ve got a high proportion of BAME people not able to stay at home, serving the nation, putting themselves at risk,” said Dr Nagpaul.

“If you add that to overcrowded and multigenerational occupancies, the infections can be brought back home and spread to other members of the family.”

He also said they may be less willing to complain about the lack of personal protective equipment. “BAME doctors often feel bullied and harassed at higher levels compared to their white counterparts,” he added.

“They are twice as likely not to raise concerns because of fears of recrimination.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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