Muslim council condemns UK's 'censoring role' of racism in report on coronavirus epidemic

Muslim council condemns UK's 'censoring role' of racism in report on coronavirus epidemic
Community organisations who contributed to the UK government’s report on Covid-19 disparities for BAME populations have condemned the removal of a section on the effects of racism and discrimination.
3 min read
04 June, 2020
Reports suggest Health Secretary Matt Hancock cut out the discrimination section of the review [Getty]
Community organisations in the UK which contributed to a government report into the disparities in the effects of Covid-19 epidemic have condemned the removal of a section which discussed the reasons behind why Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are at higher risk of the disease than other groups.

One of these groups, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), released a statement on Wednesday saying it was "extremely concerning" that the report did not discuss the role of structural racism in the disproportionate number of BAME deaths from the virus. 

Following the publication of the review on Tuesday, reports surfaced that an entire section had been removed from the final version.

In this section, over 1,000 organisations and individuals had given evidence, much of which highlighted on how discrimination and poorer life chances heightened the risk of coronavirus for those from BAME backgrounds.

A statement from MCB, the UK's largest umbrella body of mosques and Muslim organisations, said: "With clear evidence over the last few months having shown BAME communities are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and dying at much higher rates, the announcement of a review into this by Public Health England was welcome to unpick the reasons behind this huge impact, and begin a much needed discussion on tackling the structures which have caused this."

"It is therefore extremely concerning that the report published yesterday by Public Health England, whilst reiterating that racial and health inequalities intensify the risks of Covid-19, did not explicitly discuss the role of structural racism or include any recommendations as to how to tackle this and therefore prevent the unnecessary loss of lives," it added.

The council pointed out that by neglecting the role of racism, there could not be a resulting discussion on how to tackle these issues in order to save lives.

"To choose to not discuss the overwhelming role structural racism and inequality has on mortality rates and to disregard the evidence compiled by community organisations whilst simultaneously providing no recommendations or an action plan, despite this being the central purpose of the review, is entirely unacceptable," the statement said.

"It beggars belief that a review asking why BAME communities are more at risk fails to give even a single answer."

The UK Minister for Equalities said on Wednesday that the report was unable to make recommendations on addressing the disparities in Covid-19 outcomes for BAME people, because there was not enough data available.

However, other reports suggest the office of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had cut out the section on structural racism over the weekend before it was published.

The government made little publicity of the report's publication, after delaying it claiming it could stoke racial tensions.

A coalition of 15 race equality groups wrote to the health secretary on Wednesday to voice their disappointment at the report’s lack of recommendations about how to overcome inequalities.

The government announced in April it was launching a formal investigation into why Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted people from BAME backgrounds, following findings that more than a third of seriously ill coronavirus patients were from minorities.

This is despite them representing just 13 percent of the general UK population.

Sixty-one percent of healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19 have also been from non-white backgrounds, despite making up just a fifth of NHS workers.

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