The Labour Party and the TUC have welcomed the launch of a new investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities.
The statutory inquiry will see the equalities watchdog use its legal powers to identify actions that will seek to address structural racial inequalities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The EHRC has said that the “in-depth analysis” will serve to “develop clear, evidence-based recommendations for urgent action to tackle entrenched racial inequalities in a specific area”.
The inquiry proposals will first be discussed with race equality leaders in a meeting, according to the commission, and then it will “focus on a specific area” for investigation and recommendations.
Commenting on the launch, EHRC chair David Isaac said: “This inquiry is part of our long-term strategic approach to tackle the structural inequalities that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare.
“This is an important step towards ensuring that the deep-rooted inequality faced by ethnic minorities is meaningfully addressed as we rebuild.”
Welcoming the move, Labour’s Marsha de Cordova said: “The coronavirus crisis has shone a light on these inequalities, but the government has consistently failed to take action to save BAME people’s lives during this pandemic.
“Now is the time to take steps to tackle systemic racism, discrimination and injustice in Britain. The government must take action based on the findings and recommendations of the EHRC’s inquiry.”
The Shadow Equalities Secretary this week criticised the Public Health England report, ‘disparities in the risks and outcomes of Covid-19’, for failing to present recommendations despite having promising to do so.
The PHE review confirmed that people from black and Asian ethnic groups are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than those from a white British background. It also said those living in deprived areas have higher diagnosis and death rates.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly called for a public inquiry into the disproportionate impact on BAME communities, on Tuesday saying: “We need to know now why the virus disproportionately impacts these communities and crucially, what is being done to stop it.”
The TUC has also welcomed the EHRC inquiry, with general secretary Frances O’Grady saying: “Unions will engage fully with EHRC to ensure that the voices of Black workers are at the heart of their investigation.
“We should all be appalled by the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on BME people, and by the unacceptable loss of lives and livelihoods… Government must commit to fully implementing the letter and spirit of those recommendations.”
The terms of the EHRC inquiry is set to be published in the coming weeks.