Pandemic 'linked to class and race'

PHE report confirms coronavirus mortality higher for BAEM and deprived communities

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A new report out from Public Health England (PHE) this week (June 2) has confirmed what previous studies have found – that people from black and minority ethnic (BAEM) communities are much more likely to die from coronavirus amid the pandemic.

After accounting for age, sex, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi origin had the highest mortality risk, with double the risk than those of white British ethnicity.

Those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black origin all had a higher risk of dying from Covid-19, with a heightened risk of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent compared to their white counterparts.

The report also found that coronavirus deaths from the most deprived communities were double that of those in the least deprived areas.

It is unclear why people from BAEM communities are at greater risk of dying from coronavirus but PHE said that it could be a number of factors, including being more likely to live in deprived areas or work in higher-risk jobs.

Commenting on the report, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said, “This report shines a searing light that reveals the pandemic in the UK is intrinsically linked disproportionately to class and race.

“These wide disparities are detailed in this data and point to age, race and income and accompanying health inequalities as key determinants as to whom has been the worst affected by Covid-19,” she added.

“This has been amplified among those in undervalued occupations and jobs where zero hours’ contracts and precarious employment are the norm.

“Working hard to provide for your families is no defence against Covid-19 for these groups – these systemic failures need to be tackled urgently and that work should start now.

“No one policy size fits all, but such an agenda should include 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,” Cartmail went on to say.

“The Real Living Wage should be the basic minimum for those in ‘at risk’ occupations as an interim measure, with a commitment to sectoral bargaining for care workers and the guarantee of the necessary funding.”

Cartmail said that all these measures were achievable with government support.

“If austerity is over, as ministers claim, the best defence against the inequalities which the report exposes is to narrow the income gap and invest in public services with priority to social care,” she noted.

Social care

Turning to social care, she added, “The pandemic has shown that the crisis in social care can no long be pushed into the political long grass. The lack of testing for residents and staff, and also the shortage of PPE, in care homes has wreaked a terrible toll on the elderly who have died in their thousands due to Covid-19.

“Social care can no longer be regarded as the poor relation when it comes to funding from the budgets of central and local government – a ministerial blueprint for social care should be a top priority as we emerge from the lockdown.

“Poverty is the parent of disease and Covid-19 has been a willing accomplice in this respect. Once this pandemic has passed, we need to look as a country anew to how we can recalibrate economic and social policies to create a fairer society,” she went on to say.

“All these issues must be investigated in depth when the post-pandemic public inquiry takes place, which will be needed in the interests of accountability, openness and transparency.”

Stay tuned on UniteLIVE for our in-depth investigation into Covid-19 inequalities.

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