Labour launches review into coronavirus impact on Bame people with Doreen Lawrence at helm

'Coronavirus pandemic has brought society together, but it has also exposed the gulf in living standards that still blights our communities,' says Baroness Lawrence

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 24 April 2020 18:29 BST

Sir Keir Starmer has appointed Baroness Doreen Lawrence as Labour’s new race relations adviser, tasking her with launching a review into the impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Baroness Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in a racist attack 27 years ago this week, was elevated to the House of Lords in 2013 by former Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Taking up the post, she said the coronavirus pandemic had “exposed the gulf” in living standards across the UK, highlighting the social and economic injustices facing many in the Bame community.

Speaking on Friday, Sir Keir said: “In the face of this national emergency, Labour will continue to work constructively with the government. That includes shining a light on issues where it is clear more detailed understanding is needed.

“It is extremely concerning to see the disproportionate toll coronavirus is taking on our Bame communities. We cannot afford to treat this as an issue to investigate once the crisis is over. We must address it now.

No 10 has previously said the government will launch a formal review into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on people from Bame backgrounds – tasking the NHS and Public Health England to lead on the issues.

Earlier this month, a report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre on the first 3,883 patients critically-ill with Covid-19 found that a third were non-white (33 per cent), compared with 18 per cent of the UK population.

England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty has previously said it is “absolutely critical” to find out which groups of the population were more at risk from the virus, but claimed it was “less clear” that ethnicity was a factor than it was for age, sex and pre-existing medical conditions.

On his decision to appoint Baroness Lawrence his race relations adviser, Sir Keir said she had spent three decades campaigning against injustice and had “seen first-hand her drive and determination”.

He added: “Her achievements embody Labour’s values and our historic mission to create a fairer, more equal society.”

Baroness Lawrence said: “I am proud to take up this role at a critical moment for our country. The coronavirus pandemic has brought society together, but it has also exposed the gulf in living standards that still blights our communities.

“Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have long been disadvantaged by the social and economic injustice which still exists in our country. There is a clear and tragic pattern emerging of the pandemic’s impact on those communities which must be better understood”.

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