Covid-19: Ethnic Minority Disparities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 1st March 2021.

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Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary, Minister for Equalities 4:30 pm, 1st March 2021

On Friday, I published my second quarterly report summarising the progress the Government have made in understanding and tackling covid-19 disparities experienced by ethnic minority groups. In my first report of 22 October, I concluded that ethnicity in its own right did not appear to be a factor in the disproportionately higher infection and mortality rates among ethnic minority groups. Rather, the evidence showed that a range of socioeconomic and geographical factors were responsible. The evidence base continues to grow.

The early second-wave data shows very different outcomes for different ethnic groups. In the first wave, for instance, black African men were four and a half times more likely to die from covid-19 than white British men of the same age, but in the early part of the second wave the risk of death was the same for both groups. The second wave has, however, had a much greater impact on some south Asian groups, driven primarily by differences in exposure and infection. This strengthens the argument that ethnic minorities should not be viewed as a single group in relation to covid-19 and means that our response to the pandemic and to the disproportionate impact that it has had on certain groups will continue to be shaped by the latest evidence.

The other major development since my first report is the approval of three covid-19 vaccines and the subsequent roll-out of the vaccination programme, with more than 20 million of those most at risk vaccinated so far. Confidence in the vaccine among ethnic minority groups is key, and my latest report summarises our efforts over the last quarter to tackle misinformation and promote uptake.

The report also sets out the extensive measures taken across central and local government to tackle covid-19 disparities, including the release in January of £23.75 million in funding to local authorities under the community champions scheme and a further £4.5 million in funding for four new research projects looking at the health, social, cultural and economic impacts of covid-19 on ethnic minority groups.

To conclude, my report outlines a number of next steps with this work and I will update the Prime Minister on progress at the end of the next quarter.