In Britain, virus hits ethnic minorities hardest
LONDON: When Amer Awan's father died of coronavirus, mourners congregated with little thought of social distancing. But cultural practices alone do not explain why Britain's ethnic minorities have been hardest hit by the outbreak.
“Visitors to the house were not wearing any masks or not wearing gloves. They wanted to hug me,” the 44-year-old property developer from Birmingham, in central England, told AFP.
“And I said, no, I'm sorry, I'm not gonna hug you. You know, you need to understand I've just lost my dad because of coronavirus and you are not taking this seriously.”
His experience of the death of his father, Nazir, who moved here from Pakistan 56 years ago, makes him fear his community remains at risk of the deadly outbreak of Covid-19.
Britain's black and minority ethnic communities appear to have been hardest hit by the virus sweeping the country — an issue that public health authorities are now looking into.
Despite only making up 14 per cent of the population of England and Wales, they represent a third of the patients in intensive care because of the coronavirus, according to the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC).
Chaand Nagpaul, head of the British Medical Association, said this was “extremely disturbing and worrying”. “We have heard the virus does not discriminate between individuals, but there's no doubt there appears to be a manifest disproportionate severity of infection in BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people and doctors,” he told The Guardian newspaper.
The first ten doctors who died with coronavirus in Britain were from ethnic minorities, including Alfa Sa'adu, Jitendra Rathod, Mohamed Sami Shousha and Syed Haider.
In a letter to the government, several opposition Labour MPs said the deaths represented “serious concerns” and called for an urgent investigation.
Sunder Katwala, the head of think tank British Future, also said that a large number of Filipino nurses, hospital porters and other staff had been affected by coronavirus.
“Tragically, a disproportionate number of those in the NHS who died are people who came to make their lives here and to work in the NHS,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said recently.
Viewed as outsiders
Non-British staff make up 12pc of the UK health care workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In London, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain, this rises to 23pc.
Two nurses hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following his admission to a London hospital with coronavirus were from overseas — one from New Zealand, the other from Portugal.
But the letter from the Labour MPs suggested that “ethnic minority doctors have too often struggled for equal treatment” — and says the fact they were among the first NHS deaths is “not a coincidence”.
“There have been suggestions that such barriers mean that BAME doctors feel less able to complain about inadequate personal protection equipment, thereby putting themselves at risk.” - AFP