Racism contributing to coronavirus deaths among ethnic minorities, leaked official report says

Government said to have previously not published report recommendations because of ‘current global events’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 13 June 2020 18:14
Bame workers are thought to be less likely to ask for PPE because of historical discrimination
Bame workers are thought to be less likely to ask for PPE because of historical discrimination

Racism and discrimination in British society could be contributing to a higher risk of death from the coronavirus among the UK’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) population, according to a leaked official report.

The draft document drawn up by Public Health England says that historical discrimination and racism may mean that people from a Bame background are less likely to seek care or ask for better protective equipment.

The report, seen by the BBC, points to “historical racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work” as a root cause of the uneven risks. It also says that the higher prevalence of diseases such as diabetes or asthma could play a role.

“The unequal impact of Covid-19 on Bame communities may be explained by a number of factors ranging from social and economic inequalities, racism, discrimination and stigma, occupational risk, inequalities in the prevalence of conditions that increase the severity of disease including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and asthma,” the document says.

The report says groups that were consulted in drawing it up expressed “deep dismay, anger, loss and fear in their communities” as evidence mounted that the virus was “exacerbating existing inequalities”.

Sky News previously reported that Public Health England recommendations on how to address inequalities over Covid-19 had been delayed because of “worries” around “current global events” – widely taken to be a reference to Black Lives Matter protests.

The leak comes after the British Medical Association (BMA) wrote to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to ask why a section with recommendations for safeguarding Bame communities was “omitted” from an earlier report.

The letter said: “The BMA called for this review and contributed our views to it, and we were extremely disappointed that the points raised in our submission were not addressed in the report published on 2 June. It now appears that pages addressing these and the contributions from other stakeholders may have been removed from the final report.”

The leaked report recommends that health authorities bring in better data collection about ethnicity and religion, require health risk assessments for Bame workers, and increase diversity in the leadership of the health service.

It also says public health messaging should be culturally sensitive and that it should be designed to be properly understood by people who do not speak English as their first language.

Last week, Kemi Badenoch, minister for equalities, told MPs that Public Health England was unable to make any recommendations in its report on Bame people and the coronavirus because of a lack of data.

However, Raj Bhopal, emeritus professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, who had been asked to peer-review the unpublished recommendations file, said it had all the hallmarks of a government document that was ready for publication.

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