Socialist Worker

Tories doctor report over black and Asian virus deaths

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2708

Trade unionists held a vigil over bus driver deaths at Holloway garage in north London

Trade unionists held a vigil over bus driver deaths at Holloway garage in north London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in England are up to twice as likely to die of coronavirus as their white counterparts, according to an official report published on Tuesday. 

The report from Public Health England (PHE) offered no real analysis of why this happens, and absolutely no remedies.

It said people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death compared with white British people. That’s after accounting for the effects of sex, age, deprivation and region. 

“People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black ethnicity had between 10 and 50 percent higher risk of death when compared to white British,” the report said. 

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) magazine said that the government removed a key section from the report.

An earlier draft included responses from the 1,000-plus organisations and individuals who supplied evidence to the review. Many of these suggested that discrimination and poorer life chances were playing a part in the increased risk of Covid-19 to those with BAME backgrounds. 

Racism, not genetics, explains why Covid-19 hits black and Asian people harder
Racism, not genetics, explains why Covid-19 hits black and Asian people harder
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Typical was the following recommendation from the Muslim Council of Britain’s response. It pointed to the “high levels of deaths of BAME healthcare workers and extensive research showing evidence and feelings of structural racism and discrimination in the NHS”. 

So it said “PHE should consider exploring this in more detail and looking into specific measures to tackle the culture of discrimination and racism”. 

One source with knowledge of the review told the HSJ that the section "did not survive contact with health secretary Matt Hancock’s office” over the weekend.

A tweet from BAME activist Dr Addy Adelaine on Wednesday morning said the review had been ”whitewashed”. It was later shared by Yvonne Coghill, director of the NHS England Workforce Race Equality Standard programme

Hancock nauseatingly claimed, “We are absolutely determined to get to the bottom of this, right across the world, people are angry about racial injustice. And I get that. Black lives matter.” 

Challenged 

Challenged on why the report did not set out recommendations for tackling the dangers facing certain ethnic groups, he said more research was needed. 

The PHE findings echoed research published by the Office for National Statistics. It found that poor socio-economic conditions and public-facing occupations exposed BAME people to greater risk. 

Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said, “This isn't a report that's come up with any actions or any recommendations. 

“It hasn't taken us further.”

Gaurav Gupta, a BMA council member, tweeted that the report was “a missed opportunity to protect BAME and deprived communities”. “Urgent action is needed as we come out of lockdown,” he said. 

“No mention of doctors in the report.” 

What the Tories can’t admit is that their criminal and malign neglect over coronavirus meshes with class and race inequalities to cause BAME deaths. For example, some 30 percent of the British Bangladeshi population live in overcrowded conditions, compared to 2 percent of white British people. 

Race—a capitalist invention
Race—a capitalist invention
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  • BAME people were nearly 50 percent more likely than white people to be arrested in London under coronavirus laws, new figures suggest. The total number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) handed out by the Met between 27 March and 14 May was almost a fifth higher for those from non-white groups. 

People from non-white backgrounds make up 41 percent of the capital’s population. Yet they account for 54 percent of the fines and 55 percent of the arrests for alleged breaches of Covid-19 legislation.

Black people make up 12 percent of the population, but received 26 percent of the fines handed out and accounted for 31 percent of arrests.


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