Redbridge leaders speak out on delayed report showing Covid-19’s devastating impact on BAME community

Leaders across Redbridge reacted to the delayed release of Public Health England's review into BAME

Leaders across Redbridge reacted to the delayed release of Public Health England's review into BAME deaths. Picture: PA/Stefan Rousseau - Credit: PA

Leaders across Redbridge spoke out about the delayed Public Health England report which shows the higher impact the virus has on people in BAME communities.

The report, which was released yesterday said the “impact of Covid-19 has replicated existing health inequalities, and, in some cases, has increased them.”

People from Black ethnic groups are most likely to be diagnosed with the virus and death rates among Black and Asians are highest.

There is a higher risk of death for males, people living in deprived areas and those who are 80 or older are seventy times more likely to die than those under 40.

The report was due to be released at the end of May but was reported to be delayed over concerns its impact would have while protests of the George Floyd killing in the US were taking place.

Cllr Kam Rai said: “I am angry that this government wanted to withhold the findings because, to paraphrase, ‘we can’t be trusted with the information’.

“All too often minorities have been told what’s good for them by saviours, but we can speak for ourselves.”

Council leader Jas Athwal said the disproportionate effect on the BAME community has been an emerging reality and yet the government has done little to respond.

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He added: “If this were not so egregious in its own right, the fact remains that many of the BAME people who have regretfully lost their lives have been exposed to the virus because they have disproportionally staffed the frontline of our public services.

“If the government has not broken the 2010 equalities act I would be surprised, regardless of the legalities this matter requires urgent action and a cabinet level minister to either address the situation or be fired.”

Cllr Paul Canal called for a Royal Commission on Health Outcomes across England with the power to make binding recommendations to improve the health of the most marginalised and vulnerable communities.

He added “Covid-19 has highlighted the devastating impact of long standing health inequalities, inequalities of outcome and inequalities of funding. “Our PHE grant, at £43 per head is barely half that of neighbouring Newham, who get £84 per head. Historic funding formulas don’t reflect existing need.”

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said the government has failed to protect the BAME communities when it needed it most.

He added: “The report has offered nothing new and has failed to provide any recommendations, or answers on how the tide can be turned for BAME communities.

“The government has to act now to protect BAME communities; urgent action is vital in order to ensure the tackling of this grave health injustice, as well as the racial and economic injustices surrounding it.”

Ilford South MP Sam Tarry said: “The report exposes the real scandal of the pandemic - that structural inequality and poverty are the biggest cause of death in this crisis. “It is completely unacceptable that, if you are black or Asian, if you are poor, or if you have a low-skilled job, the mortality risk is double that of the rest of the population. “With millions furloughed and millions more facing poverty, that situation will only be exacerbated ahead of the expected second wave later this year. The Government must act now.”

Leader of the Conservative Group Cllr Linda Huggett said though the report was flawed, as it didn’t take into account occupatings, pre-existing conditions or obesity but it still raised serious concerns.

She said urgent action needs to be taken now but “scaremongering by the labour party does not help.

“Instead of making our residents feel anxious Redbridge Council should be working together locally to see how the risks can be minimized here and identify what further action needs to be taken to keep everyone in our community safe.”

Khalid Sharif from the Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations said the report “has shown the net impact of deprivation, multigenerational housing and health inequalities in exacerbating how BAME communities have been so tragically impacted.”

He said the report should not just be a set of data but used by the government to “lift all our communities from different faiths and races out of the endemic inequalities they are facing.”

Sikhs in England’s Harmander Singh said risk assessments should have been done sooner to prevent needless deaths.

“It’s either incompetency or ignorance but either way it’s no excuse for killing people.”