International

Minorities are hit hardest in U.K.

They represent a third of the patients in ICU with COVID-19

When Amer Awan’s father died of COVID-19, 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 gloves. They wanted to hug me,” the 44-year-old property developer from Birmingham, said.

“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.”

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% of the population of England and Wales, they represent a third of the patients in intensive care with 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”.

First victims

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 deaths represented “serious concerns” and called for an urgent investigation.

Sunder Katwala, the head of thinktank British Future, also said that a large number of Filippino nurses, hospital porters and other staff had been affected by COVID-19.

“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,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said recently.

Non-British staff make up 12% of the U.K. healthcare workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In London, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain, this rises to 23%.

‘Unequal treatment’

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 that they were among the first NHS deaths is simply “not a coincidence”.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 10:54:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/minorities-are-hit-hardest-in-uk/article31359953.ece

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