On 23 April 2020, Mrs Yogi Sutton, Chair of CARJ, received an email from Rev Dr Alfred Banya, Head of Chaplaincy at Kings College Hospital in London. Rev Banya said he had been seeing first-hand the devastating effect of the virus on patients and relatives. He went on to say:
‘We noticed being called to much younger Black and Ethnic Minorities after the first two weeks of the outbreak. Now we hear from the press disproportionate numbers of BAME people are dying from the virus but there seems to be no urgent action to address this. Can CARJ raise questions about this with its contacts in the House of Commons and House of Lords?’
The note from Rev Banya reflects the growing concern over the disproportionate numbers of Black and Minority Ethnic people who are affected by the corona virus. A Guardian analysis (22 April 2020) indicated that ethnic minorities are dying from the virus in disproportionately high numbers.[i]
Some have suggested this might be due to demography – the virus hit London first and very hard. Another explanation suggests co-morbidities could play a role. Black and Asian people are particularly affected by diabetes, hypertension and other underlying conditions.
An earlier article by Dr Omar Khan, Director of the Runnymede Trust, argued that ‘ethnic minorities are at greater risk because social and economic disparities lead to poor outcomes in health [ii]
As background to his argument, Dr Khan referred to Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK: State of the Nation (Policy Press, 2020). This very useful Report includes a chapter on ‘Health Inequalities’ [iii]
The Government has launched an official Inquiry to consider why people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds appear to be disproportionately affected by coronavirus. The Inquiry will be led by NHS England and Public Health England.[iv]
CARJ welcomes the inquiry, but agrees with some who have questioned whether a more independent Inquiry might be appropriate [v]
CARJ welcomes the announcement that Baroness Doreen Lawrence will lead a Labour Party Review into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities[vi]
It is also important to consider the vulnerability of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities during the corona virus. On 24 March 2020, Friends Families and Travellers and 29 other organisations wrote to Government Ministers, asking them to take action to support GRT Communities at this difficult time: [vii]
CARJ will continue working with others to consider all these matters.