Why BAME workers in frontline roles must receive medical grade PPE as a basic human right - Greg Wright

If the Government really believes that black lives matter, it should launch a task force to cut the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) deaths linked to the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock published a review which found BAME people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

The shocking figures released earlier this week show that BAME workers have good reason to feel nervous as the lockdown eases.

The least the Government can do is establish a group to protect those at highest risk, on whom the economy depends the most.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Health Secretary Matt Hancock published a review which found BAME people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

The study, from Public Health England (PHE), looked at the risk factors for coronavirus and found BAME individuals have a much higher risk of death than white people, as do those from poorer backgrounds, men and anyone who is obese or suffering from diabetes.

Mr Hancock said the evidence showed that coronavirus targets people in an “unequal and disproportionate way” and promised further work to find out how much of the disproportionate number of deaths among BAME communities was down to factors like their occupation, housing or other issues.

Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch will be leading the next phase of the research.. This is all laudable but surely wider action is needed?

“People are understandably angry about injustices and as Health Secretary I feel a deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation,” Mr Hancock said.

“This work underlines that being black or from a minority ethnic background is a major risk factor.”

However, Mr Hancock stopped short of introducing any immediate measures to protect BAME people.

The PHE report showed that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity have around twice the risk of death than people who are white British.

Those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity have between a 10 per cent and 50 per cent higher risk of death when compared with their white British counterparts.

The study said the “relationship between ethnicity and health is complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors”.

The PHE study also found that men working as security guards, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, bus and coach drivers, chefs, sales and retail assistants, lower skilled workers in construction and processing plants, and men and women working in social care, had significantly high rates of death from Covid-19.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the council chair for the BMA, the trade union for doctors in the UK, described the report as a missed opportunity.

“It is a statistical analysis, which while important, gets us no closer towards taking action that avoids harm to BAME communities,’ he said.

“More specifically, the report fails to mention the staggering higher proportion of BAME healthcare workers who have tragically died from Covid-19 – with more than 90 per cent of doctors being from BAME backgrounds. The report has also missed the opportunity for looking at occupational factors; the BMA was clear we needed to understand how job roles, exposure to the virus and availability of PPE were risk factors.

“The BMA and the wider community were hoping for a clear action plan to tackle the issues, not a re-iteration of what we already know. We need practical guidance, particularly in relation to how healthcare workers and others working in public-facing roles will be protected.”

The pandemic has shown how society cannot function without people carrying out jobs we often take for granted. Without medical staff, security guards, bus and coach drivers, the economy would simply grind to a halt.

But - given the heightened risk - why should BAME workers be expected to continue reporting for duty without additional safeguards?

All BAME workers in frontline roles should receive medical grade PPE as a basic human right.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson

Editor