Covid-19: BAME Communities

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 13th January 2021.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What steps her Department has taken to help tackle the disproportionate effect of the covid-19 outbreak on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

My first report on the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on ethnic minority groups in October concluded that there is no evidence suggesting that ethnicity itself is a risk factor. Rather, the evidence suggests that a range of socioeconomic and geographical factors, as well as pre-existing health conditions, largely explained the disparities. The report set out the range of measures that the Government had put in place as well as recommendations to target those risk factors, which we are carrying out across Government. We are also working with stakeholders, including the British Medical Association and the Community Advisory Group, specifically in relation to adult social care.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The disparities impact report did not say that race was not a factor. What it actually said was that data were not being collected. Has the Minister ensured that ethnicity data, including test-taking, positive tests, vaccinations and deaths at a national and regional level, are being collected to enable the robust monitoring of the impacts of covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities? If she has, we will see whether her deep-rooted reluctance to acknowledge the role that structural racism plays is actually justified.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

I am afraid that the hon. Lady seems to have completely misunderstood the report. I encourage her to re-read it. There is no evidence to suggest that structural or institutional racism is the cause of the higher infection rate for ethnic minority groups. In fact, data published by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre shows that from September to December, the direct impacts of covid-19 have improved for ethnic minorities overall when it comes to the percentages of critically ill patients and deaths in England by ethnicity when compared with the first wave. We need to understand that this is a health crisis, and it is really sad that Opposition Members continue to politicise the issue and to look for racism, when medical experts have supported our report and shown what is driving these disparities.