By Grahame Anderson
It was the day Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the PM it was “good to see him back in Parliament”. He also offered him and his fiancée Carrie Symonds congratulations on the birth of their son Wilfred.
It wasn’t long however after the men met for the first time on Wednesday as leaders across the despatch box, Mr Starmer cut to the chase asking Mr Johnson “how on earth did it come to this?”
He was referring of course to suggestions the UK had the world’s “second highest” coronavirus death toll, saying: “It’s now the highest number in Europe. It’s the second highest in the world. “That’s not success or apparent success.”
The Labour leader went on to probe Mr Johnson about the ongoing PPE problem and the crisis in care homes.
Boris Johnson cited his frustration over PPE but also countered, saying there had been a “palpable improvement” in care homes in the last few days, though he admitted he “bitterly” regrets the situation.
BAME Deaths In Bradford
As Prime Ministers Questions continued Professor John Wright was helping oversee Bradford Royal Infirmary’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Almost one third of the population and those in the NHS are non white in the city. Doctors have noted BAME patients admitted to hospital are more unwell with COVID-19 – and for a longer time.
Talking on BBC Radio 4 programme The NHS Front Line, Professor Wright explained: “Our suspicion is that BAME patients are more heavily exposed because of their living conditions and population densities. They may be more likely to be infected possibly as a consequence of that.”
In Bradford Of the first 1,276 patients at Bradford Royal Infirmary who were tested for COVID-19, 646 tested positive. Mortality was 23 per cent, which is lower than some of the national study results. Professor Wright said: “Crucially we’ve found no evidence of differences by ethnicity. This is timely and reassuring evidence for our communities.”
In line with NHS England’s advice some of those from ethnic minority backgrounds could be moved away from the front line to non-patient facing roles.
West Midlands Worries
Meanwhile doctors at University hospitals Birmingham NHS trust, were forging ahead with their own review into BAME deaths from COVID-19, in a city carrying more coronavirus deaths than any outside London.
Figures from another trust in the West Midlands show 64 per cent of coronavirus deaths at Birmingham city hospital in March emanated from BAME communities, although it fell in April to 50 per cent.
Lifting Restrictions A Concern
And with lockdown restrictions in mind this week spare a thought for 25-year-old Omar Islam from Newham in East London.
In just a few weeks Omar lost his father, an auntie and a good friend of his father’s, as another man along the road and an elderly couple two streets away also lost their lives. He’s openly described plans to gradually lift restrictions as ‘stupid’ – and many in his local community feel the same.
His fears are understandable given the Office of National Statistics has confirmed Newham currently has the worst mortality rate from COVID-19 in England and Wales, with 144.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
He told Sky News: “Lifting the restrictions will make it worse, because we haven’t done anything about it yet.
“When it first happened, I thought – a couple of hundred have died – it’s not my dad, it’s not anyone I know. Then all of a sudden it is someone you know. And that’s when you realise this is real. This is a serious thing.”
Before the crisis his father had been a fit and healthy 65-year-old who eventually needed to self-isolate. The tragedy is, Omar believes he may have brought it home from his job at a car rental company now under furlough.
He added: “I was still going to work when my dad was at home and I don’t know if I brought it home. “I am scared. I’ve got an ill mother as well. I don’t want to be the one who goes to work and then she catches it off me – and then I’ve lost another parent.”
Even more upsetting is the fact the ONC also revealed Black men and women are more than four times more likely to die a coronavirus-related death than white people.
This worrying analysis looked at how coronavirus has affected different ethnic groups from March 2 to April 10, registered by 17 April.
Compared to those of white ethnicity people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities also had an increased risk of death involving COVID-19. As ethnicity is not recorded on death certificates, the ONS linked these to the 2011 Census which includes self-reported ethnicity.
They believe the results suggest the difference is partly due to socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but some of the reasons remain unexplained.
Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, told Asian Sunday : “This crisis has exposed and amplified economic, social and health injustices in our society.”
The Party is now calling for a COVID-19 health inequalities strategy to protect deprived and BAME communities and tackle the hidden health effects of the pandemic.
Asian Sunday has also learned any changes on restrictions made in England will be very limited guided by maximum caution, as the PM looks to hit a target of 200,000 coronavirus tests per day “by the end of this month”.
We will of course keep everyone up to date with developments.