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Government denies report into ethnic minority coronavirus deaths delayed over racial tension fears as Keir Starmer says 'stop the excuses'

Officials dismiss report of stalling amid amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd - insisting review will be published this week

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 02 June 2020 10:16 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

A report into the disproportionate deaths from coronavirus of people from ethnic minority backgrounds will be published this week, officials say, after accusations of delay.

Keir Starmer has led criticism that the crucial inquiry – which set a timetable of “initial findings” by the end of May – has been held up, telling ministers: “Stop the excuses: publish the review.”

And the British Medical Association said its findings were badly needed to “make sense of why this dreadful virus” was hitting ethnic minorities harder and “most importantly, what needs to be done to urgently protect them”.

But the Department for Health and Social Care insisted a report that the review had been shelved because of fears it will stoke racial tensions, amid global outrage over the death of George Floyd, was false.

“Ministers received initial findings yesterday,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

“They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week. It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events.”

The review, led by Professor Kevin Fenton, is investigating why black men and women are almost twice as likely to die from coronavirus as white people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Its study found the much greater risk even after accounting for factors such as age, wealth and disability.

It also showed similar results for men from Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic groups, who were 1.8 times more likely die than white males. For women from the same ethnic backgrounds, the risk of death was 1.6 times more likely.

Analysis by University College London also found that ethnic minority people are two to three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the general population.

When Public Health England issued terms of reference early last month, the organisation said: “Initial findings should be available by the end of May.”

Rehana Azam, national secretary of the GMB union, also criticised any delay, saying: “We can’t afford this at a time when stark evidence shows the pandemic disproportionately impacts BAME [black and ethnic minority] workers.

“People are dying and ministers have been too slow to protect lives.

When he announced the review in early May, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially among care workers and those in the NHS.”

Sky News reported that the review’s release had been pushed back because of “worries” around “current global events”.

Its source claimed there were concerns in Whitehall about the “close proximity to the current situation in America”, saying it would be a “bad combination” if the review was released amid such tensions.

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