BAME people twice as likely to die of COVID-19, finds PHE report

The ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ report was published by PHE earlier today despite rumours it would be delayed. 

Matt Bodell
2 June 2020
PPE

Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

A report by Public Health England (PHE) identifies those from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities as at greater risk from COVID-19 but has been criticised for failing to provide any recommendations.

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The ‘Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19’ report was published by PHE earlier today despite rumours it would be delayed.

It concludes that members of the BAME community are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than white ethnic groups.

Following diagnosis “People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.” All-cause mortality was said to be up to 4 times higher in some subsets.

While occupations were not considered by the report, the authors do note that “some key occupations have a high proportion of workers from BAME groups.”

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Devastating impact on BAME communities.

Responding to the report, Dame Donna Kinnair Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “This review makes clear the long-term and potentially devastating impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities. We are deeply concerned by the impact on particular communities including Bangladeshi, black and other BAME groups.

“Among other findings, the report shows that BAME health care staff in particular face an elevated level of risk, and measures must be taken to ensure there are no further preventable deaths. Our own recent survey showed that only 43% of BAME nursing staff had enough eye and face protection equipment.

“Employers across all health care settings must take swift and comprehensive action to support and protect staff. This includes providing effective PPE, fit testing, robust and targeted risk assessments, and redeployment of staff where appropriate. No nurse should be placed at risk of contracting Covid-19 in the course of delivering care.

“In terms of the bigger systemic issues, the government must invest in coherent measures to tackle health inequalities and develop a cross-governmental strategy with costed action plans to tackle racial disparities across society.”

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Silent on the obligations of government.

Professor Gurch Randhawa, a specialist of Diversity in Public Health and Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire, says the report fails to make recommendations to improve the situation it documents, despite this being its original brief.

They said; “Sadly, but predictably, the report does a wonderful job of setting out the inequalities experienced by different communities under COVID-19, but that is just about as far as it goes. Unfortunately, the report makes no recommendations as to how the situation should be addressed, even though providing such recommendations was a key part of its original remit.

“The report is completely silent on the obligations of government and other public sector bodies to ensure COVID-19 policy responses adhere to the Public Sector Equality Duty. It is also silent on the urgent need for Equality Impact Assessments to inform all future policy planning to ensure protection for all members of the public, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“This omission can best be described as a lack of humility and honesty in learning from our past actions. It is vital that the government learns lessons from its early missteps in order to prevent a rise in health inequality being one of the principal outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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