Structural racism led to the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, a review by Dame Doreen Lawrence has concluded.
The report, commissioned by Labour, contradicts the government’s adviser on ethnicity, Dr Raghib Ali, who last week dismissed claims that inequalities within government, health, employment and the education system help to explain why Covid-19 killed disproportionately more people from minority ethnic communities.
Lawrence’s review found BAME people are over-represented in public-facing industries where they cannot work from home, are more likely to live in overcrowded housing and have been put at risk by the government’s alleged failure to facilitate Covid-secure workplaces.
She demanded that the government set out an urgent winter plan to tackle the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME people and ensure comprehensive ethnicity data is collected across the NHS and social care.
The report, entitled An Avoidable Crisis, also criticises politicians for demonising minorities, such as when Donald Trump used the phrase “the Chinese virus”.
Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, was commissioned to lead the review by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, after it became clear minority ethnic people were being disproportionately hit by the pandemic. More than a third of all critically ill Covid-19 patients up to August were from an ethnic minority, according to government statistics.
In the report’s foreword, Lawrence said minority ethnic people have been “overexposed, under protected, stigmatised and overlooked”. “This has been generations in the making. The impact of Covid is not random, but foreseeable and inevitable – the consequence of decades of structural injustice, inequality and discrimination that blights our society. We are in the middle of an avoidable crisis. And this report is a rallying cry to break that clear and tragic pattern,” she said.