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Tower Hamlets politicians react to report on impact of coronavirus on BAME community

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:03 08 June 2020

Royal London Hospital serves the residents of Tower Hamlets. Picture: Mike Brooke

Royal London Hospital serves the residents of Tower Hamlets. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Politicians in Tower Hamlets have reacted to a report which confirmed that Covid-19 disproportionately impacts people from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

Rushanara Ali MP has called upon the government to respond to its report which laid bare the impact of coronavirus on the BAME community. Picture: Rushanara AliRushanara Ali MP has called upon the government to respond to its report which laid bare the impact of coronavirus on the BAME community. Picture: Rushanara Ali

The report — from Public Health England — was published on June 2 following a slight delay to its intended release date.

Its key finding supports that of a separate report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) four weeks ago.

According to the report, age, gender (males are more likely to die from Covid-19), deprivation and being BAME are all aggravating factors with respect to coronavirus.

Notably, however, the report says: “These inequalities largely replicate existing inequalities in mortality rates in previous years, except for BAME groups, as mortality was previously higher in white ethnic groups.”

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, expressed frustration that the government is yet to address long-held concerns regarding the impact of Covid-19 on BAME individuals. Picture: Mike BrookeApsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, expressed frustration that the government is yet to address long-held concerns regarding the impact of Covid-19 on BAME individuals. Picture: Mike Brooke

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This illustrates that being BAME has become an aggravating factor where it was not previously.

A survival analysis of confirmed coronavirus cases showed that, after accounting for age, gender, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity are twice as likely to die than those of white ethnicity, with the differential between 10 and 50 per cent for those from Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black ethnicity backgrounds.

The report states that “the relationship between ethnicity and health is complex”, before adding that BAME individuals are more likely to both contract coronavirus, and face “increased risk of poorer outcomes once they acquire the infection”.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs calls for guidance on how to address the health inequalities that determines the impact of coronavirus. Picture: Tower Hamlets CouncilMayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs calls for guidance on how to address the health inequalities that determines the impact of coronavirus. Picture: Tower Hamlets Council

This greatly worries Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum, who says that she and others have been raising these concerns “for months now — right since the onset of the crisis”.

Ms Begum demanded “urgent, immediate and robust steps” be taken, with similar sentiments echoed by Labour colleague Rushanara Ali.

The MP for Bethnal Green and Bow also highlighted the specific local impact of these findings: “Tower Hamlets has one of the largest ethnic minority populations in the UK, including the largest British Bangladeshi community. It also has the fourth worst age-standardised death rate in the country.”

Borough mayor John Biggs queried why the report does not give “any recommendations on how to address these findings”, but vowed to “press” for answers.


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