London Mayor calls for probe into disproportionate COVID-19 ethnicity impact

Aditi Khanna

London, May 17 (PTI) London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Sunday called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to commission an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the British capital’s black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The impact on these communities has become increasingly clear in recent weeks with statistics from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing clear disproportionality.

The ONS figures earlier this month showed that black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from the coronavirus than white men and women, and South Asian communities were also at higher risk from the disease, after taking into account age and socio-demographic factors.

“It is shocking that Londoners of different ethnicities are being impacted by COVID-19 in such disproportionate ways. It has exposed the major inequalities in our society and simply cannot be ignored,” said Khan.

The UK government had initiated a Public Health England (PHE) led review into the factors behind this disparity, but the Opposition Labour Party mayor demanded a much wider inquiry.

He said: “This pandemic must be a wake-up call for our country and the government’s current review is not enough. We need a wide-ranging independent public inquiry that will get to the root of these problems. A public inquiry is crucial to ensure that communities are properly involved and to help build trust and confidence in its findings.

“Every Londoner, regardless of background or ethnicity, deserves the opportunity to live and work in safety, and only by asking the difficult questions can we move towards fundamental and lasting change.” Khan has joined with hundreds of community leaders, academics and activists in signing the call by African diaspora’s Ubele Initiative for an independent public inquiry to investigate the level of exposure to COVID-19 across all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) key workers; the way BAME communities were factored into the preparedness and emergency planning; an examination of funding levels across communities; and the impact of the COVID-19 emergency powers and social distancing policy on these communities.

“The devastating impact of COVID-19 on London’s BAME communities is deeply disturbing but not in the least surprising. The government’s handling of its biggest disaster since the World War II has left communities reeling throughout the country.

“We welcome the Mayor of London’s decision to support the growing call for an independent public inquiry. It is important that community led action continues to be supported, and that BAME communities are at the heart of solutions moving forward. We have to bring the government to account for this catastrophic systemic failure,” said Yvonne Field, CEO of The Ubele Initiative.

Previously, Khan has also raised serious concerns about the impact of the virus on BAME communities and called for ethnicity data to be added to death certificates.

This week the Mayor convened a meeting of experts from transport, business, health, academia and the voluntary and community sectors, as well as trade union representatives to discuss this further.

His City Hall office is also analysing available data to improve the understanding of this disproportionate impact, looking into the social and economic factors behind infections and deaths, and its impact in other ways, including education, employment and welfare. PTI AK CPS