By GRAHAME ANDERSON
The government has launched a review into why those from ethnic minorities are disturbingly and disproportionately affected by coronavirus.
This announcement came after weeks of continual pressure on ministers from health professionals and shadow cabinet members, to look into the number of deaths involving the BAME community. It’s already been noted NHS staff, who are particularly exposed to coronavirus, are disproportionately drawn from ethnic minorities.
Research from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre has revealed 14.4 per cent of patients in critical care are Asian. It’s thought to be the first analysis of its kind anywhere in the world looking at the ethnic breakdown of cases of the virus.
The study looked closely at admissions to a sample 286 critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with confirmed Covid-19 up until noon on third April. It demonstrated the median age of those in a critical condition of all ethnicities was 61 and almost three quarters were men.
In terms of those who work in the NHS 44 per cent of doctors and 24 per cent of nurses are from a BAME background, despite only accounting for 13 per cent of the population in England and Wales.
Of the front-line health and social care workers to have died in England and Wales of Covid-19, 70 per cent of them were coloured or from an ethnic minority. In short, individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds constitute two thirds of NHS deaths. According to the 2011 Census, just 14 per cent of the UK population comes from those backgrounds.
Socio-Economic Reasons To Blame?
Asian Sunday has learned ongoing deprivation, differences in culture, inter-generational households and underlying health conditions, more prevalent in ethnic minority communities are all contributing to this worrying trend.
Several experts also believe the delay in the translation of government guidelines from English to other languages may have had an adverse effect on treating some people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
What’s more, ethnicity is not collected on death certificates in England and Wales. Scotland introduced ethnicity in death certification in 2012. Data on fatalities outside of hospital will need to be matched to the population by the Office for National Statistics going forward.
One look at government statistics will confirm cramped living conditions are likely to be a problem for ethnic minorities. A total of 30 per cent per cent of the UK Bangladeshi population alone, are considered to live in overcrowded housing. The figure looks even more disturbing given the white population equivalent stands at just two per cent.
Social Media Myth
What needs rubbishing is the myth being put around some aspects of social media genetic differences between BAME and white people is to blame.
There’s little doubt of course BAME communities here in Britain still don’t rank very highly when it comes to socio-economic indicators of poverty and deprivation.
The Health Secretary
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said: “We have seen, both across the population as a whole but in those who work in the NHS, a much higher proportion who’ve died from minority backgrounds and that really worries me.
“I pay tribute to the work they’ve done, including those who were born here, moved here, and given that service to the NHS.
“It’s a really important thing that we must try to fully understand.”
Ongoing Data Vital
Reacting to the government’s decision to carry out a review, the council chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “BAME deaths don’t just happen in hospitals, they are prevalent in the community too. It’s incredibly important that the government looks at the data and understands why this is happening.
“In the meantime, they need to put in place specific measures to address this disproportionate number of deaths which is incredibly shocking and sad to see.”
Shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said the disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) doctors who had died was ‘deeply disturbing’.
She added: “We welcome the review into the disturbing impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.
“The Government must ensure the review is robust and looks into the underlying structural economic and social inequalities that have affected BAME communities in this crisis. It must also urgently record data broken down by ethnicity on the number of people who have died as a result of Covid-19.
“The devastating effect of Covid-19 on BAME communities cannot be overstated. This review must be the first step in ensuring that all communities are equally protected from this virus.”
A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed to Asian Sunday both the NHS and Public Health England will lead the review of evidence concerning the impact on those from BAME backgrounds.