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.

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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.

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