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

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I wish that she had actually read my reports, because she would have seen that I addressed that not just in the October report, but in the one that came out last week. Recording ethnicity data on death certificates was one of the recommendations in my previous report. It is not something that can be done overnight—it will probably require legislation—but we are on our way to getting it, so that is some good news.

The right hon. Lady also mentioned the orthodox Jewish community—finally someone from the Labour Benches has talked about this community, and I am very pleased that she has. Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that 64% of the orthodox Jewish community may have had covid-19 in 2020. The researchers said that the reasons behind this high rate of infection are not yet known.

Strictly orthodox families have significantly larger households than the UK average. They also live in areas of increased population density and, in pre-pandemic times, had regular attendance at communal events and gatherings. I use them as an example because this is why it is wrong for us to mix together lots of different groups. The orthodox Jewish community has been more impacted than many of the ethnic minority groups that get a lot of attention in the press, but we do not say that that is due to structural antisemitism. We look at the underlying factors. Where there are multi-generational households, for instance, that is not due to racism, but is often due to cultural factors. We are not going to take grandparents away from their families because of covid. We are going to provide them with guidance to ensure that they can look after themselves safely; that is this Government’s priority.