Starmer and Lawrence call for “swift action” to protect BAME communities from Covid-19

Sienna Rodgers
© Southbank Centre / CC BY 2.0

Labour leader Keir Starmer and Labour’s new race relations adviser Doreen Lawrence have called for “swift action” from the government to protect BAME communities from Covid-19.

Amid growing evidence that the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affects Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, Labour has written to the Prime Minister raising fresh concerns.

Starmer and Lawrence have asked Boris Johnson to consider recommending to all employers that they “risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly”.

According to advice published by NHS England last month, all NHS employers have been encouraged to conduct these risk assessments to protect staff from BAME backgrounds.

Extending this move to all employers – not just in the NHS – is “particularly important as the government seeks to loosen the lockdown restrictions”, the letter to Johnson says.

Labour launched its own review into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities last month and appointed Baroness Lawrence to the post of race relations adviser.

Public Health England is also undertaking a review, but London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged for data on the demographics of those affected by coronavirus to be collected and published in real time.

Below is the full text of the letter from Keir Starmer and Doreen Lawrence to Boris Johnson.

Dear Prime Minister,

We welcomed the government’s decision to launch a Public Health England (PHE) inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities and will work constructively with ministers to ensure this inquiry is published as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we believe action can be taken now to help protect BAME communities from the coronavirus.

Advice published by NHS England last month advised all NHS employers to risk assess staff from BAME backgrounds, along with others who may be at higher risk. It said:

“Emerging UK and international data suggest that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid19. Public Health England have been asked by DHSC to investigate this.

“In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”

We are writing to ask that the government now consider including this advice for all employers.

We recognise the huge pressures Covid-19 is placing on businesses and public services across the country. However, there are steps that organisations can take to help care and support those who are disproportionately affected by the virus. This is particularly important as the government seeks to loosen the lockdown restrictions and encourage some people to return to back to work.

We are concerned that ministers were too slow at the early stages of this pandemic. It is important that the lessons are learnt from this and swift action is now taken to help mitigate the impact of this virus.

We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Lawrence
Keir Starmer MP

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