PM urged to launch public inquiry into BAME coronavirus deaths

10 May 2020, 08:22

New research suggests BAME groups are two to three time more likely to die from coronavirus.
New research suggests BAME groups are two to three time more likely to die from coronavirus. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Prime Minister is being urged to launch an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

In a letter to Boris Johnson campaigners have said the only way the "critical" answers needed to explain the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities was an independent inquiry.

More than 70 public figures have signed the letter including author Malorie Blackman, playwright, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

The impact of the Government's Covid-19 emergency powers and social-distancing policy on BAME communities should also be probed, they added.

Read more: Boris Johnson to reveal five-stage warning scheme ahead of easing restrictions

Black men and women are more than four times more likely to die with coronavirus as white people, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics.

"Only an independent public inquiry will provide the answers we need. Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic," the open letter to Boris Johnson says.

Read more: People from BAME groups 'two to three times more likely to die from coronavirus'

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People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities also had an increased risk of death involving Covid-19 compared with those of white ethnicity, the ONS found.

The letter said a public inquiry will help restore confidence among the country's BAME communities.

The group added: "Only an independent public inquiry will provide the answers we need.

"Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic.

"By instigating such an inquiry, the Government will provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to submit evidence through a transparent process.

"This would help to restore public confidence amongst the UK's BAME communities."

The group welcomed the Public Health England-led review of Covid-19 deaths, which is due to publish its findings at the end of the month, but said it was "doubtful" that its scope was wide enough to get the answers needed.

They added: "We write to you with a solemn petition for an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the UK's BAME communities.

"It would provide a comprehensive exploration of all possible contributing factors that could explain the outsized effect Covid-19 has on BAME communities, killing up to four times as many as white people in some groups."

The group said that any independent public inquiry must look at the "cultural and systemic treatment" of BAME staff by their employers and their level of exposure to Covid-19 in the NHS, care sector and across all key worker roles.

It must also investigate the preparedness and emergency planning of both central and local government in response to how they factored in the needs of BAME communities.

An inquiry should also examine the level of funding and investment on public health, physical and social infrastructure in local authority areas where there is a significant BAME population and a disproportionate coronavirus-linked death, they said.

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