I wanted to update you all today on a very important debate that I have secured this week in the House of Commons. This Thursday afternoon, MPs will debate my motion on the effect of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
This is a vital issue and one which needs serious debate. So I am pleased to have been successful in my application and I encourage everyone to get in touch with your local MP and ask them to take part.
The Government’s approach to COVID-19 has been a national scandal. They have failed on testing, failed on protecting the most vulnerable in our care homes, failed to secure adequate PPE for healthcare and frontline workers, failed to listen to the science when it comes to opening schools and workplaces, and they have failed to present clear and consistent advice for the public to name but a few. The Government should be ashamed.
But one of their worst failings when it comes to COVID-19 has got to be their inability – or perhaps unwillingness – to do anything to protect Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, who have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19.
The statistics contained in Public Health England’s recent review in COVID-19 disparities are stark. It confirmed what we already knew – the risk of dying among those diagnosed with COVID-19 is higher in BAME groups than in white ethnic groups.
More specifically, it found that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity have around twice the risk of death than people of white British ethnicity. While 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.
This is all backed up by ONS analysis which showed that, when taking age into account, Black males were 4.2 times more likely to die from a COVID-19-related death than White males. These figures are appalling, and it is so upsetting to see such racial disparities when it comes to health outcomes in this country.
We have known about some of these issues for some time. Here in Brent, we have tragically had more deaths than any other London Borough. My constituency is so badly affected, in part because of the number of multi-generational households, meaning that children spread the virus to parents and more vulnerable grandparents. It’s a particularly emotional time and it’s taking a serious toll in our community.
But we also cannot ignore the impact of poverty and inequality, which we also sadly have a lot of in Brent. The PHE report found that people who live in deprived areas have higher diagnosis rates and death rates than those living in less deprived areas.
So we know some of the factors causing this disparity in outcomes. The PHE review laid many of them out clearly. But what did the Government do? They released the report without recommendations or the nearly 1,500 third-party submissions. Whilst they’ve sat on this, they could have been saving the lives of members of the BAME community.
Following pressure from myself, other MPs, community groups and – I believe – the Government’s scientists, the recommendations and submissions will now be released this week. But the Government, and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, have serious questions to answer about why they misled the House and chose to hide this vital information from the so-called ‘first’ report.
On Thursday during my debate, I will be looking for those answers from Government. I won’t take no for an answer and I will not let them kick this into the long grass.
But most of all, I will be looking for a commitment to serious action. People are dying and we need serious, clear and measurable measures to be put in place to reverse the health disparities facing Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
This is all taking place in the wake of the mass movement we are witnessing with Black Lives Matter protests. As a society, we have to start having these difficult conversations but most importantly ensure there is sustainable change so we can move forward.
The review into COVID-19 disparities cannot go the same way as the Race Disparity Audit, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review or the Lammy Review. They all presented the data we need but were not properly acted upon by this Conservative Government.
The time for talk is over. Now we need action – on Thursday I will be calling for just that.