The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK's ethnic minority communities, including those of Indian heritage, as they are over-represented in Covid-19 severe illnesses and deaths because of long-standing racial and socio-economic inequalities, according to a new survey published this week.
The “Over Exposed and Under-Protected - The Devastating Impact of Covid-19 on Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Great Britain” report by the Runnymede Trust and ICM also found that as lockdown has eased, the economic fallout is further exposing vulnerable minority groups to the deadly virus. It reinforces previous reports, including one by Public Health England (PHE), which found similar disproportionate impact of the deadly virus among the UK's ethnic minority population.
According to the findings of the latest survey conducted among 2,585 adults in June, people from Indian backgrounds were among the most likely to have been furloughed under the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, since the outbreak.Higher proportions of Indian (20 per cent) key workers, compared with the average of 14 per cent, also reported having been ignored about safety complaints and felt they were “being given tasks which may have exposed [them] more to the coronavirus”.
“This report clearly highlights how Covid-19 is not just a health crisis; for many vulnerable groups, including black and ethnic minority groups (and women) it is also a social and economic crisis,” said Dr Zubaida Haque, Interim Director, Runnymede Trust, the UK's leading independent race equality think tank.
“We have known for some time that BME communities have been more vulnerable to serious illness and deaths with Covid-19, but there has been less evidence as to why this is the case. Our survey clearly illustrates how BME groups have been more exposed to coronavirus throughout lockdown but also less protected,” she said.
The survey finds that minorities are severely impacted because they are more likely to be working outside their home, more likely to be using public transport, more likely to be working in key worker roles, less likely to be protected with personal protective equipment (PPE) and more likely to live in multigenerational, overcrowded housing, so much less able to self-isolate and shield.
It highlights that one-third of ethnic minority groups (33 per cent) are working outside of their home, therefore increasing their exposure to Covid-19.
The report outlines a range of urgent policy recommendations to protect minority groups from Covid-19, including equality impact assessment of emergency measures rolled out by the government during the pandemic. Addressing the impact of longstanding inequalities, including race inequality, is essential to buffer the devastating impact of Covid-19 on minority communities, the Runnymede Trust concludes.
The UK government's Department of Health and Social Care said that it is aware of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and is working to tackle the?problem.
"We know that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds, and, following the findings of the Public Health England report, the equalities minister is now taking forward vital work to tackle these disparities and protect our most vulnerable communities from the impact of the virus," it said in a statement.
by Aditi Khanna