Munira and her Liberal Democrat colleagues have written to the Prime Minister urging him to take action to address the disproportionate impact Covid-19 is having on BAME groups.
The letter calls on the government to take a range of measures, including providing adequate PPE to frontline workers, supporting research looking into why BAME people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and more safety in schools.
You can read the letter below:
The text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern at the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on people from black, Asian and minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds and to urge you to take urgent action now to address this.
While we welcome the Government’s commitment to launch a formal review into the impact of the coronavirus on BAME people, there must be full scrutiny of this process by MPs right across the political spectrum. That is why we continue to call for a cross-party taskforce to oversee the review process and monitor the roll out of measures required to tackle this issue.
Further immediate action must also be taken to support BAME people vulnerable to and facing this crisis now.
Safety at Work
People from BAME groups make up a significant percentage of those on the frontline. Their protection is paramount, yet the shortfalls in personal protective equipment and access to testing during this crisis have, at times, been shocking. Around two thirds of healthcare staff who have died are from a BAME background whereas they make up 20% of the overall workforce. Adequate PPE equipment, in line with WHO standards, must be provided in hospitals to prevent coronavirus outbreaks among NHS workers in wards treating COVID-19 cases and those treating other conditions. It is also paramount that adequate PPE equipment be provided to all care staff, both in care homes and those providing domiciliary care. It is not acceptable that people are being forced to risk their health and that of those they are caring for. We urge the Government to get a grip on these matters that have been issues for months.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations requires employers to ensure there is a work environment that is, as far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Research from the Royal Society of Medicine shows that struggling hospitals tend to be in deprived areas which may have a higher proportion of BAME residents and workers. Research by the King’s Fund shows there are strong signals that existing inequalities and inequities experienced by BAME healthcare staff are being amplified by the crisis. We call on the Government to provide additional support to those hospitals that do not have the facilities, expertise, or resources to cope with the coronavirus crisis. The Government must also ensure that all risk assessments by employers include an Equality Impact Assessment considering the higher risk for BAME people in general and BAME people with additional vulnerabilities specifically.
Your recent announcements around the return of “those who cannot work from home” to their workplaces is putting BAME individuals at disproportionate risk. BAME workers are over-represented in high-risk occupations, including transport, health, and social care sectors. We urge you to work closely with relevant authorities and the necessary resources to prevent overcrowding on public transport and to provide alternative means of transport to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all commuters.
Safety in Schools
The Government has failed to consult with school leaders, teachers, and unions on the details of its guidance for reopening schools, and that’s just not good enough. Current communications from the Government on schools do not recognise the specific risks that BAME children may be exposed to, nor how this can be managed. We urge the Government to review the proposed ‘Back to School’ plan with regards to BAME children who may be exposed to the virus and transmit it either at home to their families or to BAME teachers and other school staff.
We call on the Government to publish all scientific advice it has received on this, and for a guarantee that all children, of all ages, will be given the equipment and funding to learn safely, either at home or in school.
Research from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), working on behalf of NHS England, and together with NHSX, have analysed the pseudonymised health data of over 17.4 million UK adults to discover the key factors associated with death from COVID-19. This is the largest study on COVID-19 conducted by any country to date, and therefore gives the strongest evidence on risk factors associated with COVID-19 death. BAME people were found to be at a higher risk of death. Previously, commentators and researchers have reasonably speculated that this might be due to higher prevalence of medical problems such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes among BAME communities, or higher deprivation. These latest findings show that this is only a small part of the excess risk. Further research into why BAME people are so disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 is needed as a priority in the long-term to ensure an effective response to the coronavirus crisis. We urge the Government to work to support such endeavours.
The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. We must all work together to ensure there are no blindspots in the UK’s response to this crisis.
We look forward to receiving your response.