Ministers have been accused of not taking seriously the threat posed to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons by Covid-19, after it was reported that the release of an official review of the issue had been delayed over fears of potential civil unrest.
According to Sky News, officials are concerned about the effect the publication could have amid global anger over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck.
“It is unacceptable that this review should be delayed without a given date for its publication. BAME communities need answers,” said Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary.
Citing an unnamed government source, Sky said the release of the Public Health England (PHE) review, due by the end of May, had been pushed back yet further because of “worries” around “current global events”.
The source was quoted as saying there were concerns in Whitehall about the “close proximity to the current situation in America”, where protesters are demanding an end to police violence against black people. The source reportedly said it would be a “bad combination” if the review was released amid such tensions.
De Cordova added: “There is a gross irony in delaying the release of a report into the unequal suffering of the BAME community, on the basis of global events that relate to the suffering of black communities around the world.
“If anything, recent events make the release of this report all the more urgent. If the government is serious about tackling racial injustice, they should not be shying away from understanding into why these injustices exist.”
The review was commissioned to analyse how factors such as ethnicity, obesity and gender can affect people’s vulnerability to Covid-19. Health bosses sought “insight” after reports that deaths among BAME communities were disproportionately high.
Announcing the launch of the review in early May, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially among care workers and those in the NHS.”
Asked to confirm the Sky report on Monday evening, PHE would only say: “The report will be published shortly.”