“People were not fully informed”: Covid and the Bangladeshi community
- Credit: Ripon Ray
For many Bangladeshis, 2021 was a year to celebrate, marking 50 years since the country’s independence.
This includes Ripon Ray, a Hackney resident and founder of BritBanglaCovid, an online platform for Bangladeshis in the UK to share their experiences of coronavirus.
But Ripon, 41, also believes it is important to highlight the difficulties his community has faced this year as a result of the pandemic.
“Bangladeshis and other ethnic minorities are more likely to die from coronavirus,” he said. “When the lockdown kicked in I was aware that life would be tough for the Bangladeshi community, knowing that crowding, poverty and illiteracy levels are high.”
The ONS has found that Bangladeshis are up to three times as likely to die from coronavirus compared to the white British population.
Multi-generational homes are often cited to explain this disparity, but Ripon claims that an initial failure to properly engage with the community about coronavirus was also to blame.
“I think central government was very slow – it had no clue, it had no vision,” he said. “People were not fully informed.”
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“So really it was left to grassroots organisations across the UK to inform people about the virus. Local Bangladeshi groups played a huge part in translating material into many different languages.”
To help with efforts to educate Bangladeshis about coronavirus, Ripon set up BritBanglaCovid in May 2020, using storytelling as a medium to encourage action that might save lives within the community.
“Many Bangladeshis believe in traditional folk stories,” he said. “So using storytelling is really important to get that message out there and say – this is real, look at what has already happened”.
One story shared on the website details how a charity worker lost both her sister and brother-in-law to coronavirus during the early stages of the pandemic.
For Ripon, the high vaccination uptake within the Bangladeshi community is proof that his work, and that of other community leaders, has been a success.
Figures from October 2021 show that 90.4 per cent of Bangladeshis over the age of 50 had received at least one vaccine, higher than any other ethnic minority group.
But Ripon is aware that, as omicron cases surge across the country, his work cannot stop.