Pressure is building on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call for an independent public enquiry into the ethnic disparity seen among patients of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has now joined those calling for an enquiry to look into reasons people from the UK’s Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities have been worst affected during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A recent study found that people from the BAME communities are twice more likely to contract the novel coronavirus as compared to their white counterparts. Recent figures released by Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre revealed that despite being 19% of the UK’s overall population, BAME communities constitute 33% of those severely ill with Covid-19.
“This pandemic must be a wake-up call for our country and the government’s current review is not enough,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling for a “wide-ranging independent public inquiry that will get to the root of these problems”. “A public inquiry is crucial to ensure that communities are properly involved and to help build trust and confidence in its findings,” Sadiq Khan said.
A group of 70 professionals has already sent a letter to the government calling for an independent public enquiry into the BAME-Covid-19 issue. One of the signatories to the letter is an award-winning general physician and former deputy chair of the British Medical Association, Dr. Kailash Chand who has been a strong critique of the manner in which the coronavirus crisis has been handled by the UK government.
This pandemic must be a wake-up call for our country and the government’s current review is not enough
– London Mayor Sadiq Khan
Calling the death toll amongst the BAME community and health professionals “tragic,” Dr. Chand said, “They should come and meet BAME leaders; they should go in BAME communities and find out about the social-economic factors and understand why this tragedy has happened in United Kingdom.”
There is a government inquiry on the issue that is already going on under Dr Kevin Fenton at the UK’s Public Health England. The probe should publish its findings by the end of this month. While this enquiry has been welcomed by most, the increasing number of cases has led to calls for a public inquiry.
The call for a public inquiry is also a call to broaden the horizons of the findings to assess the levels of exposure faced by medical staff from the BAME communities.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has also written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate the wide-ranging issues that have led to BAME communities being worst affected.
They should come and meet BAME leaders; they should go in BAME communities and find out about the social-economic factors and understand why this tragedy has happened in United Kingdom
– Dr Kailash Chand
In the meantime, the letter of the professionals too is gaining momentum. “We recognise that we do not have credible data or evidence that ethnicity alone may be a risk factor, but while we wait for the evidence to develop, there may be some missed opportunities to shield people at risk and to protect vulnerable BME population from possible tragic consequences,” Dr Kailash Chand said.
“The whole issue is complex and there is a need to bring about structural and institutional changes accounting for these inequalities; and looking ahead an independent review may be the only option to achieve these aims. Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones. Covid-19 is clearly now one of the biggest issues in post-war history, directing a spotlight on race and health inequalities. By instigating such an inquiry, the government will provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to submit evidence through a transparent process,” Dr Kailash Chand added.
The response of PM Boris Johnson is awaited.