Labour has launched a review into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black, asian and minority ethnic communities and appointed Baroness Doreen Lawrence to the post of race relations adviser.
Lawrence and the new party leader Keir Starmer kicked off the review with a digital roundtable discussion this morning, alongside Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Marsha de Cordova.
Other experts at the meeting included Muslim Council of Britain’s Harun Khan, Operation Black Vote’s Simon Woolley, deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing Yvonne Coghill, Sikh Network’s Jas Khatkar, the Jewish Medical Association’s David Katzand, the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ Daniel Elton and chair of the British Medical Association Chaand Nagpaul.
Commenting on the new appointment, Starmer said: “Doreen Lawrence has spent almost three decades campaigning against injustice. I have seen first-hand her drive and determination, and was proud to stand beside her in fighting for justice for Stephen. Her achievements embody Labour’s values and our historic mission to create a fairer, more equal society.”
After the murder of her son in 1993, Lawrence founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and has continued to campaign on equality and justice. His death was marked on Stephen Lawrence Day earlier this week on April 22nd.
On the review, the Labour leader declared: “In the face of this national emergency, Labour will continue to work constructively with the government. That includes shining a light on issues where it is clear more detailed understanding is needed.
“It is extremely concerning to see the disproportionate toll coronavirus is taking on our BAME communities. We cannot afford to treat this as an issue to investigate once the crisis is over. We must address it now.”
Official figures show more than a third of people in intensive care as a result of Covid-19 are from BAME backgrounds – almost triple the proportion of BAME people in the wider population.
Lawrence said: “I am proud to take up this role at a critical moment for our country. The coronavirus pandemic has brought society together, but it has also exposed the gulf in living standards that still blights our communities.
“BAME communities have long been disadvantaged by the social and economic injustice which still exists in our country. There is a clear and tragic pattern emerging of the pandemic’s impact on those communities which must be better understood.”
The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre revealed earlier this month that while BAME workers represent 44% of the NHS workforce, they have accounted for 68% of the 57 NHS staff known to have died from the virus.
Commenting on the disproportionate impact of the virus, de Cordova said: “All the early signs suggest BAME communities and healthcare workers are disproportionately bearing the brunt of coronavirus.
“Across our frontline are huge numbers of BAME doctors, nurses, bus drivers and other BAME key workers. Every day they put themselves in harm’s way to save and support the lives of others. We must do everything to protect them, their families and communities who have been hit hardest by the virus.”
All of the 14 doctors that are known to have died from Covid-19 have been from BAME backgrounds. The government announced on April 16th that it would be launching its own review into the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK has now reached 138,078 – but with low levels of testing the true figure is thought to be much higher. There have been 18,738 recorded hospital deaths from the virus.