I would also like to thank my hon. Friend Dawn Butler for organising this debate this afternoon. As the first black MP for Liverpool, I know only too well the impact of deeply entrenched systemic racism and inequalities, and I welcome the opportunity of speaking in this important debate today on the level of deaths from covid-19 among black communities. The unequal impact is linked to a number of factors, including structural racism, discrimination and health inequalities increasing the risk of serious illness. The Office for National Statistics reports that black men and women are four times more likely to die from covid-19 than white men and women, and it is clear that covid-19 did not create these health inequalities, but rather that the pandemic exposed and exacerbated long-standing inequalities affecting black communities in the UK.
In “Health Equity in England: the Marmot review 10 years on”, Professor Marmot stated that health inequality was
“even worse for minority ethnic population groups”,
and commented that the pandemic will entrench and make worse existing inequalities. Recent analysis suggests that black individuals account for 63% of all NHS staff deaths from covid-19, including 64% of deaths among nursing and support staff and 95% of deaths among medical staff. Black people are more likely to work in occupations with a higher risk of covid-19 exposure, more likely to use public transport to travel to work and less likely to access the necessary PPE to protect themselves.
Race equality has been firmly placed on the agenda in the past couple of weeks, but we all know only too well that countless reports and commissions tell black people what we already know: that we are disadvantaged simply because of the colour of our skin. I say enough is enough. Now is the time for action and change. I do not want my grandsons having the same debate in years to come. Public Health England has published two reports now and the Government are setting up another commission that will report back at the end of the year. They must act now to reverse these long-standing, systemic inequalities and move form rhetoric to reality.