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UK accused of censoring effect of racism in BAME COVID-risk report

June 4, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Protesters and police face off during a march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and protest the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week after being pinned down by a white police officer in the US state of Minnesota, in central London, United Kingdom on 3 June 2020. [İlyas Tayfun Salcı – Anadolu Agency]

The UK government has been accused of removing over 1,000 submissions on the role of racism in causing a disproportionately high Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) mortality in an investigation commissioned by the Department of Health.

The Public Health England (PHE) report, entitled “Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19”, found that the “risk of dying among those diagnosed with COVID-19 was… higher in those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than in White ethnic groups”.

People of Bangladeshi ethnicity were found to be twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those from White ethnic groups. While “people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death”, the report reads.

The PHE report, which was published on Tuesday, also claims correlations displayed in COVID data echo health inequalities that existed prior to the global pandemic. However, PHE says in previous years mortality rates have been lower in BAME groups than White ethnic groups – the direct opposite of the report’s findings.

More importantly, the PHE review fails to provide an explanation for, what it describes as, a “disproportionate” risk of death from COVID-19 to people from BAME groups.

READ: Over 140 UK Muslim institutions urge anti-racism watchdog to investigate Tory Islamophobia

A report by the Health Service Journal says this could be because the PHE review does not include evidence supplied by over 1,000 organisations and individuals which claims racism and discrimination play a role in causing the disproportionate death rate in BAME groups.

HSJ claims the report was censored by the government who removed the evidence, citing an anonymous source “with knowledge of the review” as saying the submissions “did not survive contact with Matt Hancock’s office”. According to HSJ, the evidence did appear in a previous draft.

The Muslim Council of Britain was one organisation which provided evidence intended for the report. On Tuesday, the group’s Secretary General Harun Khan said in a statement: “To choose not to discuss the overwhelming role structural racism and inequality has on mortality rates and to disregard evidence compiled by community organisations, whilst simultaneously providing no recommendations or an action plan, despite this being the central purpose of the review, is entirely unacceptable. It beggars belief that a review asking why BAME communities are more at risk fails to give even a single answer.”

The PHE report comes as cities across the UK have seen large Black Lives Matter protests in solidarity with US demonstrators who took the streets last week over the death of an unarmed black American, George Floyd, in Minneapolis on 25 May.