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Coronavirus: Racism and inequality could play a part in BAME deaths, leaked report suggests

Inequality, discrimination and occupational risk were among factors contributing to BAME deaths, the report claims (PA)

3 min read

A leaked report suggests discrimination and inequality could play a part in the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

The Public Health England (PHE) paper claimed "historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work" meant minority ethnic groups were less likely to seek medical attention or challenge their employer over occupational risk. 

The report, seen by the BBC, concluded: “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.”

Recommendations include better data collection, improving risk assessments and representation for BAME workers, and producing more culturally sensitive public health messages. 

It comes after a separate PHE report published last week revealed some minority groups were twice as likely to die from coronavirus compared to white Britons.

The review attracted controversy for its lack of recommendations, and the Government has come under pressure to publish the findings in full after it was revealed 69 pages were missing from the initial document.

On Saturday the British Medical Association (BMA) demanded an explanation from the government over why the pages were omitted.

Writing to health secretary Matt Hancock, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul called for the missing pages and recommendations to be published immediately.

In the letter, seen by the Observer, he wrote: “I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities.”

Dr Nagpaul continued: “A clear response is needed as to why these pages and important recommendations were omitted from publication, especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities.”

The Government defended the exclusion of the pages in the Commons last week, with equalities minister Kemi Badenoch claiming that PHE could not make any recommendations as some data was not available.

Meanwhile, a PHE spokesperson said: “The government commissioned PHE to conduct an epidemiological review to analyse how different factors can impact on people’s health outcomes from Covid 19. This was published in full on the 2 June.

“In parallel, Prof Kevin Fenton, on PHE’s behalf, engaged with a significant number of individuals and organisations within the BAME community, to hear their views, concerns and ideas about the impact of Covid-19 on their communities.

“This important engagement work will inform the work the equalities minister is now taking forward. We intend to both formally submit this work to the minister next week, and will publish it at the same time.”

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