By Arun Srivastava
The Prime Minister of UK, Boris Johnson is facing acute pressure to launch an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of corona on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME) across Britain. This demand has cropped up in the wake large number of deaths the BAME communities have suffered.
The death rate for Black and Asian Britons from corona is two-and-a-half times more than white people, according to an analysis of NHS. This death rate has raised the issue of vulnerability of these people, Concerns have been growing about the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people since figures published earlier this month showed that 35% of almost 2,000 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were non-white, compared with 14% of the population of England and Wales. Fears were fuelled by the fact that the first 10 doctors with the virus reported to have died were also BAME.
Black people account for 13% of the city’s population but 16% of deaths. Epidemiologist Dr Shikta Das said there was a high rate of ethnic minority people among front line workers, who were exposed to greater risk. NHS data analysed 3,929 deaths by ethnicity and showed a disproportionate number of black people had died from Covid-19 in London hospitals. “Twenty per cent of all NHS workforce are from an ethnic minority background. The figure for doctors is 44%.
London does have the largest BAME population and also the highest rates of Covid-19 in the UK, but even within London the number of BAME deaths remains disproportionately high.
The increased proportion of deaths among BAME groups is even starker amongst health and care workers. The disproportionate number of deaths in people with BAME backgrounds has been highlighted by the Government as particularly concerning, leading the NHS to recommend that Trusts risk assess their BAME staff and take necessary precautions to keep them safe.
There could be many reasons why people from ethnic minorities are being hit harder by coronavirus. These factors often overlap with each other and can be complex to unravel. It’s important to understand that while we can note differences between populations, everyone’s individual risk from Covid-19 is unique to them and depends on a range of factors.
Research is being carried out into whether vitamin D might have a role in preventing or treating Covid-19. The body produces Vitamin D from sunlight more slowly if you have darker skin, so some people believe vitamin D deficiency could be a potential factor.
While cultural practices and genetics have been mooted as possible explanations for the disparities, higher levels of social deprivation have also been mooted as a cause and the IFS warns that some ethnic groups look more likely than others to suffer economically from the lockdown.
People with South Asian (including people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Sri Lankan) background may be more likely to develop coronary heart disease than white Europeans, and risk factors for coronary heart disease are also more prevalent in young South Asians
BAME groups are disproportionately represented in frontline roles, whether that is in the NHS or in other public facing roles such as retail and transport. These jobs increase the risk of exposure to coronavirus. In London, 67% of the adult social care workforce are from BAME backgrounds.
According to NHS Workforce Statistics, people with BAME backgrounds account for approximately 21 per cent of staff, including approximately 20 per cent of nursing and support staff and 44 per cent of medical staff. However, individuals with BAME backgrounds account for 63 per cent, 64 per cent and 95 per cent of deaths in the same staff groups. Early findings from looking at these data showed 79% of these deaths were people working in hospitals.
Early research into the first patients critically ill with virus in UK hospitals indicates that black and Asian people are more likely to be badly affected by coronavirus than white people. The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that 35% of almost 2,000 patients were non-white, nearly triple the 13% proportion in the UK population as a whole.
Fourteen per cent of those with the most serious cases were Asian and the same proportion were black. This revelation has meanwhile triggered a demand for in depth studies and research to understand why the virus appears to be having a disproportionate impact on non-white ethnic groups.
This revelation simply underlines that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s observation about the non-Britishers was ill conceived. While spearheading the Brexit movement he had shown racial contempt towards the non-white people. It is a paradox that the person who did not like the black people owed his life to them. It is they who saved him after he was caught by the corona and hospitalised
Kamlesh Khunti, professor in primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at the University of Leicester, who studies health trends in black and minority ethnic populations said; “South Asians live in more deprived areas and have more cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These people often lived in larger, multi-generational households and so “social isolation may not be as prevalent”.
Government figures confirm that cramped housing is far more likely to be a problem for ethnic minorities. Thirty per cent of the UK Bangladeshi population are considered to live in overcrowded housing compared with 2% among the white British population. Fifteen per cent of black African people also live in overcrowded conditions, as do 16% of Pakistanis.
Due to the prevailing ground realities the people from Asian countries, including the BAME population, are unable to follow the directives about the social distancing. In London more than a quarter of transport workers operating tubes and buses, which have remained open during the lockdown, are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London has joined hundreds of signatories, including Doreen Lawrence and author Malorie Blackman. These people in a letter to the prime minister has called for a comprehensive investigation into race and health inequalities in Britain. The coalition organised by the Ubele Initiative claims the government’s current review has limited focus and lacks transparency. (IPA Service)