Covid-19: BAME Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:25 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Labour, Brent Central 1:25 pm, 18th June 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
is concerned about the level of deaths from covid-19 among Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities;
notes that structural inequalities and worse health outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people go hand in hand;
calls on the Government to review the data published by the Office for National Statistics on 11 May 2020 on Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered up to and including 20 April 2020, the Report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in May 2020 entitled, Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others? and the full report by Public Health England on Disparities in the risk and outcomes of covid-19;
and further calls on the Government to set out in detail the scope and timeframe of the Government’s review and urgently to put a plan in place to prevent avoidable deaths.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee and its Chair, my hon. Friend Ian Mearns, for securing this important debate. Many Members who wanted to speak cannot do so, and it is a shame that they cannot participate remotely. The Government are more focused on subverting democracy than protecting lives, but we will not go into that. Their decisions are increasingly illogical and irrational. They finally did a U-turn the other day and now children will be fed this summer; I am glad the Government are doing U-turns. I thank everyone involved, including the all-party group on school food and Marcus Rashford, who joins celebs such as Raheem Sterling, John Boyega and others who are finding their voice and using their position for change.

This is a sobering debate. We all watched the brutal, very public lynching of George Floyd—our lives were interrupted by the killing—but racism does not just manifest itself in brutal ways that can be caught on camera and shared on social media. “I can’t breathe”, the last words of George Floyd, could apply to the disproportionate numbers of black, African-Caribbean and Asian people dying from coronavirus in this country.

Every time the Government get dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe every time the Government hide a report or kick an issue into the long grass by announcing another commission or report. I can’t breathe. My breath is taken away by the lack of care, empathy and emotional intelligence shown by the Government time and again. For months, we stood at our doorways and clapped for our key workers, the ones on the frontline—the doctors, the nurses, the carers, the cleaners, the ones driving the buses, the cabs and the forklift trucks or serving people in supermarkets. The people we clapped for are the ones who are being underpaid and who are, disproportionately, dying.

The death rate for covid-19 has exposed and amplified what has been going on in society for decades. The concentration of deaths in areas where people are just about managing should worry us all. As a country, we are better than this. According to the Office for National Statistics, the burden of covid-19 has been felt more strongly in regions with greater deprivation. In those areas, people are dying from the virus at double the rate of those in more affluent areas. According to the ONS, adjusting for age, black people are more than four times as likely to die from covid as white people. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are more than three times as likely and Indians more than twice as likely.

BAME people account for 13.4% of the population, but they make up 34% of patients admitted to an intensive care unit. My constituency of Brent sadly has the highest number of registered deaths in London. In line with findings from the Office for National Statistics, those areas of greatest deprivation, such as Harlesden, have the highest number of deaths.