Paulette Hamilton, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, writes:

We have to get to the bottom of why BAME Communities have been hit hardest by COVID-19. Official figures show that black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from coronavirus than white males, and black females are 4.3 times more likely to die than white females. Males of Bangladeshi or Pakistani heritage are 3.6 times more likely to die of a COVID-19 related death than white males, and for females of Bangladeshi or Pakistani heritage that figure is 3.4. We need to work out why that is.

Public Health England’s review into the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities was published by the Government on 2nd June 2020, this was the first report. It was all data driven and had NO recommendations. The second document was published by Public Health England on 16th June 2020. After reviewing the document, I was pleased that the recommendations had at last been published but was disappointed with the storm of controversy relating to why its contents where not published earlier. It contained seven recommendations, but most of these are recommendations that we have seen in similar studies into institutional racism such as the Marmot Review Report of 2010 fair society, healthy lives, or the David Lammy report of published in February 2020 which contained 35 recommendations, and the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry which had a further 70 recommendations. The only new feature is that death certificates would require the reporting of ethnicity included on it.

The original report was data driven with NO recommendations and ignored the rich variety of information from the many webinars where over 4000 members of the public shared their experiences of Covid-19, and inputted into these meetings. A later edition of the report contains evidence submitted from thousands of individuals and organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain on issues such as structural racism, which we intend to examine closely.

The factors regarding structural racism included the large health and income inequalities, which mean that BAME communities have a higher prevalence of conditions that increase the severity of Covid-19 including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Also, many key workers on the frontline during this pandemic are from the BAME community and many will have used public transport without risk assessments, which has led to them and their families being more exposed to Covid-19. We are still pushing for a full independent Enquiry, that can provide clarity on what has happened and how we can all learn from this current emergency to ensure this does not happen again, so Black Lives will truly Matter.

Unfortunately, rather than hold a Public Enquiry the government has decided to put this public health issue into the Equalities brief, which will then report quarterly. It is not right that in response to the huge amount of information that the government currently has, it will delay action for another two or three months or even longer. There is a risk that this will just kick the issue into the long grass and mean that proper actions are not taken.

I would urge Government to work with local authorities and Public Health Directors on a full Public Enquiry to get the qualitative information from local communities, citizens who have contracted this virus and from families who have lost family members from this virus.

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