EHRC launches inquiry into BAME Covid-19 deaths

The EHRC has promised to make clear recommendations for the protection of ethnic minority communities after the PHE failed to do so.

5 Jun 2020| News

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) today announced it has launched an inquiry into the “long-standing, structural race inequality” that has led to a disproportionate number of people of colour to lose their lives or their livelihoods during the Coronavirus crisis.

A Public Health England report published on Tuesday (02 June 2020), found that people of Bangladeshi background living in England are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white Britons.

Similarly, other BAME groups have up to a 50% increased risk of mortality compared with their white peers.

The PHE’s report was criticised for failing to investigate the reasons for these racial inequalities in health outcomes and for neglecting to make any recommendations on how the situation could be improved.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, yesterday told the House of Commons that the report – which was commissioned by the government – was unable to make any recommendations due to a lack of data.

Announcing its own inquiry, the EHRC promised to provide “clear, evidence-based recommendations for urgent action to tackle entrenched racial inequalities”.

David Isaac, EHRC Chair, said: “Now is a once in a generation opportunity to tackle long-standing entrenched racial inequalities. We intend to use our statutory powers to address the loss of lives and livelihoods of people from different ethnic minorities.”

The organisation pointed to existing evidence that ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in “substandard accommodation”, as well as facing difficulties when accessing healthcare, employment and education.

Both the EHRC inquiry and the PHE report have arrived in a week when racial tensions are mounting after the police murdered George Floyd in the US. Protests in the UK have followed those in the US and are also aimed at the government’s lack of action to prevent BAME Covid-19 deaths.

In a damning report by the Office for National Statistics released this week, it was revealed that the UK police show signs of sharing the institutional racism of their TransAtlantic peers. The total number of Fixed Penalty Notices handed out by the Metropolitcan Police between March 27 and May 14 for breaking Coronavirus rules was nearly a fifth higher for those in ethnic minorities.

Only 12% of the population is black, yet 26% of all Coronavirus fines were handed out to black people and they were targetted for 31% of Coronavirus-related arrests.