Major unions including Unite, UNISON and GMB have called on the government to take action following a Public Health England report showing people from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus.
A report from Public Health England has revealed that people from BAME communities (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) are at greater risk from coronavirus, leading unions to call for action to be taken to protect them as the UK’s lockdown measures are gradually lifted.
The report, titled COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes, found that the risk of dying among those diagnosed with Covid-19 is higher for those in BAME groups than those in white ethnic groups. After accounting for the effect of age, sex, deprivation and region, the report found that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity were most at risk with about twice the risk of death than people of white British ethnicity.
People of Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Caribbean and other black ethnicity had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death caused by Covid-19 when compared to white British.
The findings have lead to several major unions calling for more action to be taken by the government to help protect BAME communities.
Unite’s assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the report highlighted the need for “ethnically sensitive risk assessments and income guarantees for workers who through ‘test, track and trace’ would otherwise be reliant on statutory sick pay (SSP), while in isolation.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:
This (report) reveals a complex picture in which race, age, deprivation, occupation, sex and underlying health have all played a part.
But it’s clear those who often face the biggest challenges of inequality are being hit harder by this disease. And the report comes at a time when racial injustice is hitting the headlines around the globe.
The government must do all it can to protect those people who are more at risk.
It’s essential that all key workers are paid when they are ill or shielding others at risk of Covid-19. Then they wouldn’t have to make heart-breaking choices between their health and paying the bills.
Employers must carry out risk assessments and take decisions on where key staff are deployed that reduce the unequal impact on black communities and others who are affected most.
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said:
Matt Hancock has lost valuable time by commissioning a report on facts that were already in the public domain. Either Black and Minority Ethnic lives matter or they don’t, and Ministers have lost valuable time in commissioning a report that doesn’t set out how working lives are to be protected.
This report confirms what we already knew – BAME workers have made a disproportionate sacrifice during this pandemic.
In the context of global events, with the spotlight on structural and institutional racism, the publication of this report which carries no recommendations is just going to heighten distrust of the claim that all lives matter to the government. People are dying and ministers have been too slow to protect lives.
They say that this virus doesn’t discriminate, but the response to this virus and the lives it has taken most definitely experienced a discrimination that ended in their deaths.
No plan is in place that gives confidence that the government is going to protect lives of people disproportionately impacted by this terrible disease. That’s why GMB has joined the call for an independent public inquiry into the government’s response.