MP Diane Abbott wants public inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities

Diane Abbott. Picture: Stefan Rousseau

Diane Abbott. Picture: Stefan Rousseau - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

MP Diane Abbott has called on people to demand a public inquiry the coronavirus crisis’s disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

Black people are twice as likely as white people to die from Covid-19 - after accounting for age, health, socioeconomic status and other factors - according to the Office for National Statistics.

Hundreds of people tuned into a virtual demonstration on May 19, hosted by the Hackney Stand Up To Racism. They heard the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP and other speakers discuss why little has been done to shield BAME people at higher risk of catching and dying from the virus.

Ms Abbott, who on May 18 tabled a parliamentary early day motion calling for a public inquiry, attributed the crisis to “government incompetence”.

She said: “This is a tremendous death toll. It has revealed the structural inequalities and the racial inequalities, so we have to support each other. We have to support school communities and we have to realise that there is a campaign we’re going to have to fight.”

The MP discussed the over-representation of BAME people in areas like transport, care work and the NHS.

Of the 23 NHS doctors who have died after contracting coronavirus, 22 are Black and minority ethnic.

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Ms Abbott said: “So it’s sectoral labour distribution, it’s job insecurity and a lot of these workers are on zero hours contracts. They are agency workers and often didn’t feel confident to query their lack of proper protective equipment.”

All speakers at the meeting, including Ms Abbott, urged people to demand an independent public inquiry into the matter.

On May 4 the government announced a review to analyse how different factors – including ethnicity, gender and obesity – can impact on people’s health outcomes from Covid-19.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and behind each statistic is a name, a loss and a family that will never be the same again.

“As part of our continued effort to understand even more about COVID-19, we have commissioned work from PHE to consider the impact of various factors such as ethnicity, obesity, age, gender and geographical location and how these may have an impact on someone’s susceptibility to the virus.

“The more we know about this virus and its impact, the more we will be able protect lives and limit the spread.”

Campaigners speaking at the online event included author and journalist Gary Younge, Bell Ribeiro Addy MP, Professor Azeem Majeed of Imperial College, NEU Equalities officer Louise Regan, Will Sullivan Race Equality Officer at Trade Union Congress (TUC) and a London health care assistant called Chioma Okpara.

Hackney Stand Up To Racism has organised a socially distanced Vigil on Friday, May 29 at 12.30pm on the steps of Hackney Town Hall.

To watch the virtual demo on Facebook click here.

To find out more about Hackney Stand Up To Racism click here.