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 thank my hon. Friend for that important intervention, and I will come to that point later in my remarks. As constituency MPs, it is important for us to talk to doctors, and to understand and learn what is going on. I wish the Government would also take that on board.

Structural and systemic racism is also a health issue, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed that the jobs that are most at risk are over-populated by African, Caribbean, Asian, and minority ethnic people. We must be honest with ourselves and ask why that is. The higher BAME death rate is apparent across all grades of the NHS, even in the highest socioeconomic groups. We must be honest with ourselves and ask why that is. If we shy away from the truth, nothing will change. The publication of the first report on this issue stated that 17 doctors died, 16 of whom were BAME. Eastern Eye then reported that, since 2 June, when that report was published, another 18 doctors died after saving lives, 17 of whom were BAME. We must be honest with ourselves and ask why that is.

The Public Health England report that the Government tried to hide states that, as my hon. Friend Abena Oppong-Asare said, there were numerous examples of doctors who were not able to access appropriate PPE to protect themselves adequately. It also stated that requests for risk assessments or additional PPE from BAME workers were more likely to be refused, and that requests were less likely to be made because of the fear of adverse treatment.

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, a nurse, was still working at a hospital while heavily pregnant. She sadly died of covid-19. They managed to save her baby girl by emergency caesarean. That is so tragic, and we must ask ourselves why she was forced to work. Let me give a couple more examples. Two black employees in London, a taxi driver and one transport worker, Belly Mujinga, died after allegedly being spat at by somebody who claimed they had covid-19. Belly had an underlying health condition and should not have been put in danger. She requested to work in the ticket office, but that was refused. We must ask ourselves why such things are happening. The Government must urgently implore and ensure that all employers carry out risk assessments in all workplaces. As lockdown is eased, those most at risk are in greater danger unless the Government introduce structural requirements for employers.