Our pandemic response must correct social inequalities, not entrench them.

THE IMPACT of COVID-19 has been felt across the whole of the UK, however this burden has not been shared equally. 

From the outset of the pandemic, deeply entrenched social inequalities and longstanding structural racism created an environment where this deadly virus could thrive. Under these conditions, BAME communities across the country were put at immense risk and without support from Government.

Throughout this crisis, the Government has liked to describe the fight against coronavirus as a war. To use their analogy, our BAME communities would have been the cannon fodder – these people’s lives are not, and should not, have been dispensable.

Going into any public health crisis, it’s clear that the role of healthcare workers is absolutely crucial. We knew that our health and care workforce is significantly overrepresented

by people from BAME backgrounds, yet the Government failed to roll-out risk assessments until it was too late and hundreds of BAME healthcare workers had already tragically died.

It was not just those on the frontlines of the NHS paying the price. So many BAME people are in insecure work and have to carry on with unsafe practices for fear of the repercussions, afraid to speak out. They could not afford not to go to work – they could not risk losing their jobs.

Perhaps just as worrying as the health inequity faced by BAME communities are the economic consequences of lockdown. BAME people are up to twice as likely than the national average to face economic hardship through loss of work and lack of financial support. As we face the very imminent threat of a second wave, these factors create the perfect storm for further transmission and increased suffering in BAME communities.

HOPE not hate’s vital report highlights the disproportionate anguish BAME communities have faced, and will continue to face, in light of COVID-19. It showcases the anger BAME people feel towards the Government for the lack of support and, crucially, it rightly calls on the Government to step up and ensure that its future actions in response to the pandemic act to address social inequalities and systemic racism in society, not further entrench them.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP
Shadow Minister for Mental Health and A&E Doctor