By Grahame Anderson
More than 70 public figures have called for a full independent public inquiry into deaths from COVID-19 among people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Individuals including Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, have all signed a letter to Boris Johnson asking for more transparency.
The move came at a time when data from the Office for National Statistics revealed, nearly twice as many black men and women are likely to die from COVID-19, than white people in England and Wales.
The open letter to the PM said: “Only an independent public inquiry will provide the answers we need. Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic.”
ITV News Survey
In terms of those from a BAME background working on the NHS frontline. A survey carried out by ITV news has raised the possibility “systemic discrimination” may be a factor in the disproportionate number of their colleagues who have died from COVID-19.
In fact, their analysis found the number of BAME NHS staff who died in England, was seven times higher than white workers. And this in light of the fact 94 per cent of doctors who have died after contracting COVID-19 are from a BAME background.
More than 2,000 people took part in the survey with many feeling unfairly deployed, carrying an increased risk of infection. Some are even thinking about quitting the NHS altogether.
Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they are more scared as a result of disproportionate deaths of BAME medics. What’s more, half of respondents felt discriminatory behaviour has helped contribute to the high death toll – with one in five claiming to speak from personal experience.
With racism raising its ugly head the message seemed to be one of unfair or discriminatory decisions being at play. According to ITV news one respondent told them: “Only BAME doctors from the department have been put forward for deployment.”
It’s also important to note 60 per cent of responders said a lack of PPE was a factor in the disproportionate death toll.
ITV presented their findings to the Health secretary Matt Hancock who said he was determined to stamp out any racist or discriminatory behaviour.
Consultant anaesthetist Fozia Hayat based at Bradford’s Royal Infirmary was recently sent a series of scaremongering videos most of which she ignored. After looking at one in particular Fozia decided to reply as she explained: “I essentially replied to say, ‘Just be careful what you share, and look at both sides of the argument. It’s important to ensure that you’ve got all the information as you might cause harm – you might stop somebody coming into hospital.'”
But even as Ramadan began the messages kept arriving, one particularly disturbing given it was from someone who runs a successful business in the city.
Fozia added: “I’ve been sent a message saying that NHS workers are working on bonuses, that we’re taking money for putting COVID on death certificates and we are essentially taking money for life. And I think that’s a really cruel thing to say to someone.”
Incredibly doctors were also accused in the same message of forcing people to sign Do Not Resuscitate forms. It also suggested COVID-19 didn’t actually exist. Then it said: “Please stop selling out and being a mushroom and stand up for the truth. You’ll be held responsible in the court of Allah for the deaths of these people, for negligence in this life, and life is very short.”
Having looked up the meaning of Mushroom on the internet Fozia added: “This is the month of Ramadan and we fast in our family, we are practising, and it was quite hard to have somebody send me a message to say, ‘You’re a sell-out, you’re corrupt, a mushroom… You’ve got blood on your hands.
“It’s fine to have an opinion. But don’t be cruel. And don’t accuse people of things. It’s Ramadan and it’s meant to be a time to be kind and generous to each other.”
The upshot is medics are seriously concerned such messages and fake news are keeping others away from hospital when they need care.
End Of May Reporting
Asian Sunday has learned the Public Health England review, due to report by the end of the month, will examine health records in an attempt to establish more “robust” data on emerging evidence, the virus is having a disproportionate effect on certain groups.