Socialist Worker

Tories try to hide truth behind death rate for black and minority ethnic people

Issue No. 2709

The report highlighted the increased risk faced by key workers as an explanation for higher death rates among black and asian people

The report highlighted the increased risk faced by key workers as an explanation for higher death rates among black and asian people


Racism and social inequality has contributed to the higher death rates from coronavirus among black and Asian people.

That’s the damning conclusion of a leaked document from Public Health England (PHE).

It says that “historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work” meant black and minority ethnic (BAME) people were less likely to seek medical attention.

And they were less likely to challenge bosses over health and safety in the workplace.

The report concludes that racism and social factors are key to understanding the unequal impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.

These range “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”.

Evidence from stakeholders “pointed to racism and discrimination experienced by communities and more specifically BAME key workers as a root cause to exposure risk and disease progression”.

The report adds, “Racism and discrimination experienced by BAME key workers is a root cause affecting health and exposure risk.

“For BAME communities, lack of trust of NHS services resulted in reluctance to seek care.”

The document informed some of the findings of a PHE report published at the beginning of the month.

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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It had found that BAME people in England were up to twice as likely to die of coronavirus as whites.

But there was outrage that it gave no analysis as to what lay behind the figures or recommendations. And, soon afterwards, it was revealed that the Tory government had omitted 69 pages from the report.

The section “did not survive contact with health secretary Matt Hancock’s office”, according to a source in the Health Service Journal.

There’s little wonder the Tories are resisting calls to publish the report when the Black Lives Matter movement has put institutional racism onto the agenda.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association council’s chair, has demanded the report be published in full.

He said, “I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities.

“A clear response is needed as to why these pages and important recommendations were omitted.

“Especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities.”

Stand Up To Racism is calling for a public inquiry into BAME deaths from coronavirus. An open letter by the group calls for an inquiry, the recording of the ethnic backgrounds of “all Covid-19 patients” and “no end to the lockdown until it is safe to do so”.

Its call is supported by Labour politicians, major trade unions and black and Muslim organisations.


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