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Urgent question on PHE review on Covid-19 risk factors and outcomes

4 June 2020


Urgent question to the Equalities Minister on Public Health England's review into disparities in risks and outcomes related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

On 2 June, Public Health England published its review into disparities in risks and outcomes in the BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) community.

The review showed that those from BAME backgrounds were more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, and that BAME health care workers were particularly at risk of infection.

Public Health England found the following are also risk factors:

  • Age. People who are 80 or older are 70 times more likely to die than those under 40.
  • Being male. Working age men are twice as likely to die as working age women.
  • Occupation. Professions that involved dealing with the public in an enclosed space are at higher risk. The data from PHE showed that those working in hospitals are not more likely to catch or die from Covid-19.
  • "Diagnosis rates are higher in deprived or densely populated urban areas".

Kemi Badenoch: "We must work together to improve the lives of people from BAME communities"

Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Equalities made a statement in response to the urgent question, she said she was "profoundly disturbed by the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police".

She went on to say that "during these moments of heightened racial tensions [...] we must work together to improve the lives of people from BAME communities."

On Public Health England's review, she said "the review confirms that Covid-19 has replicated and, in some cases, increased existing health inequalities related to risk factors including age, gender, ethnicity and geography."

The review confirmed that being black or from a minority ethic background is a risk factor.

She said the Government is now "reviewing the impact and effectiveness of its actions to lessen disparities and infection and death rates of Covid-19 and to determine what further measures are necessary."

She concluded by saying:

"More needs to be done to understand the key drivers of these disparities and the relationship between risk factors.

"The Government will commission further data research and analytical work by the Equality Hub to clarify the reasons for gaps in evidence highlighted in the report."

Gill Furiniss: "BAME workers on the frontline of this crisis are now anxious for their lives"

Gill Furniss, Shadow Minister for Equalities, told the House that "the review confirms what we already know, that racial and health inequalities amplify the risk of Covid-19".

She said "it is time for the Government to take action on the devastating impact that this virus has had on the BAME community."

She also scrutinised the review as it failed to make "a single recommendation on how to reduce these inequalities, protect workers on the frontline or to save lives", which goes against its own terms of reference which "set out to suggest recommendations for further action".

Gill Furniss asked the Government why this review has failed to make recommendations.

She went on to say:

"Over 1,000 individuals and organisations applied evidence to the review.

"Many suggested that discrimination and racism increase the risk of Covid-19 for BAME communities.

"Will the Minister explain why these views were not included in the review and does she accept that structural racism has impacted the outcomes of Covid-19?"

She concluded:

"BAME workers on the frontline of this crisis are now anxious for their lives.

"Will the Minister listen to Labour's demands to call on all employers to risk assess their BAME workforce?

"Coronavirus thrives on inequality and there is no more important time to tackle racial injustices in our societies to save lives during this crisis.

"It is now up to the Government to take action and show its commitment that Black Lives Matter."

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