Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. We know that covid-19 has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. In the second wave, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people have been three times more likely to die, so my first question is to ask the Minister what steps the Government are taking to protect these groups.
I agree with the Minister that the term “BAME” has been unhelpful in assessing the impact of the virus. However, I do not agree with her conclusion that ethnicity is not a risk factor for covid-19, as in reality ethnicity risk factors cannot be separated from the socioeconomic risk factors. For example, ethnic minorities are more likely to live in overcrowded and intergenerational homes where they are unable to self-isolate effectively. What action is being taken to address this issue, especially as schools are set to return next week?
The vaccine roll-out offers hope, but take-up remains low among our ethnic minorities. The Minister’s report rightly lists misinformation and disinformation as contributing factors, but fails to address the mistrust and long-standing health inequalities faced by some ethnic minority communities. What actions are being taken to tackle issues of historical mistrust? We need localised data from those who choose not to take the vaccine so that we can effectively target those people, so when will that data finally be published?
Funding for community champions is welcome, but why have only two of the five most diverse local authorities in the UK received funding? Will she work with her Cabinet colleagues to ensure that the most diverse areas receive funding to increase take-up? The Minister rightly states that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be used. What changes can we expect to see from this Government? Will she publish equality impact assessments on pandemic responses, including vaccine uptake? Finally, when can we expect to see the delayed report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities so that we can help to create the more equal society that we all desire?