Public Health England Review: Covid-19 Disparities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:37 am on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Gill Furniss Gill Furniss Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 10:37 am, 4th June 2020

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. On 2 June, Public Health England published its long-awaited review of disparities in the risks and outcomes of covid-19 for BAME communities. The review confirms what we already know: racial and health inequalities amplify the risk of covid-19. It found that those from BAME backgrounds were more than twice as likely to die from covid-19 than white people, and that BAME healthcare workers are at particular risk of infection. These lives matter, and it is time for the Government to take action on the devastating impact that this virus has had on BAME communities.

Public Health England’s review fails to make a single recommendation on how to reduce those inequalities, protect workers on the front line, or save lives. That is despite the fact that its terms of reference include to “suggest recommendations” for further action. Will the Minister urgently explain why the review failed to do that? The Government have said that the Race Disparity Unit will publish recommendations on the findings from the review. When will those recommendations be published, alongside a plan for their implementation?

More than 1,000 individuals and organisations supplied evidence to the review. Many suggested that discrimination and racism increase the risk of covid-19 for BAME communities. Will the Minister explain why those views were not included in the review? Does she accept that structural racism has impacted the outcomes of covid-19? Does she agree that it is now time to address underlying socioeconomic inequalities facing BAME communities, and will she confirm that the Government will take action to do so? BAME workers on the frontline of this crisis are anxious for their lives. Will the Minister listen to Labour’s demands to call on all employers to risk assess their BAME workforce? Coronavirus thrives on inequality, and there is no more important time to tackle racial injustices in our society and save lives during this crisis. It is now up to the Government to take action and show their commitment that black lives matter.