Racism and discrimination suffered by Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from Covid-19 in those communities, an official inquiry has found.
The conclusion is contained in a section of a government-commissioned report that ministers have refused to publish, apparently for fear of stoking tensions around race and racism after protests in response to George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Sky News has obtained a previously unpublished section of the review of the disease’s disproportionate impact on BAME people, which was undertaken by Public Health England (PHE).
It says that: “Stakeholders pointed to racism and discrimination experienced by communities and more specifically BAME key workers as a root cause to exposure risk and disease progression.”
It continues: “Racism and discrimination experienced by BAME key workers [is] a root cause affecting health and exposure risk. For BAME communities, lack of trust of NHS services resulted in reluctance to seek care.”
The document helped to inform the main report, which PHE published on 2 June. The emergence of the new document comes after the Department of Health and Social Care and PHE both responded to claims of censorship by insisting that the report had been published in full.
The extra part of the evidence review summarises testimony received by PHE’s Prof Kevin Fenton, the report’s author, from about 4,000 stakeholders, including BAME groups and academics.
It also says: “It is clear from discussions with stakeholders the pandemic exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities affecting BAME communities in the UK.”
The fact that many BAME people occupy key worker roles, for example in the NHS and social care, means that they “may be more exposed to Covid-19 and therefore are more likely to be diagnosed,” it says.
The newly uncovered section of the report also highlights fears in BAME communities that people from those backgrounds could be badly affected again if there is a second wave of coronavirus and lessons from the initial wave have not been learned and acted upon.
Labour criticised the government’s lack of openness over the report, which had been eagerly awaited at a time of huge concern over the disproportionate number of deaths among BAME people.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on people from BAME communities is serious, and as the data shows for many it can be fatal. This should demand urgent action from ministers. Instead we have had misleading statements and a lack of transparency.
“We shouldn’t have to reply on leaks. The report should be published in full as soon as possible and action taken.
“Labour have been raising concerns for weeks and calling for greater use of targeted testing and protection for staff on the frontline, for example.”
The main report found that people from black ethnic groups were most likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 and those from BAME groups overall had the highest death rates. Those of Bangladeshi origin faced the highest risk of dying – twice that of white Britons – while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black backgrounds faced an extra risk ranging between 10% and 50%.