Coronavirus: Call for public inquiry into BAME death risk

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There are concerns about the impact on people from an ethnic minority background

More than 70 public figures are calling for a full independent public inquiry into deaths from Covid-19 among people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

They have signed a letter to the prime minister calling for more transparency.

Signatories include author Malorie Blackman, playwright, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

Black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“Only an independent public inquiry will provide the answers we need. Such an inquiry is essential for all, especially for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic,” the open letter to Boris Johnson says.

A scientific review by Public Health England (PHE) into the impact of Covid-19 on frontline workers from ethnic minority backgrounds and the wider community is already under way.

The rapid review, which is due to report by the end of the month, will examine health records to try to establish more “robust” data on emerging evidence that the virus is having a disproportionate effect on certain groups.

Asked about the PHE review at Saturday’s daily news briefing, deputy chief medical officer for England, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said the matter was being taken “incredibly seriously”.

He added: “We are determined to get to the bottom of it in a proper and scientific way.”

The Office for National Statistics analysis shows the inequality in death rates between black and white people persists after taking into account age, where people live, and some measures of deprivation and prior health.

People from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities also had a significantly higher risk of dying.

The Labour Party has announced its own review into coronavirus impact on black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, headed by Baroness Lawrence.

The campaigner and mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has been appointed as Labour’s race relations adviser by leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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