Bishop Paul McAleenan has urged the Government to tackle the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities.
His call comes following the announcement of Public Health England’s inquiry into the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
Bishop McAleenan said: “While people from all backgrounds are suffering, the experiences of Catholic charities and clergy reflect a growing body of evidence that BAME and GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Travellers) communities are being harmed particularly by this pandemic.
“Public Health England’s inquiry is much needed, and our Church will be engaging with it. However, an inquiry alone is not enough. The government needs urgently to tackle the known structural inequalities that have left some communities paying such a high price. We also need to recognise the disproportionate sacrifice made by people from minority backgrounds in frontline services.”
Bishop McAleenan pointed out that the health crisis presents society with serious questions of racial justice.
“Pope Francis has called on the Church to help tackle ‘intolerance, discrimination or exclusion, that seriously undermine the dignity of those involved as well as their fundamental rights, including the very right to life’. His words are especially resonant amid the challenges we face today about racial discrimination in our society.”
Bishop McAleenan’s call comes after research found that coronavirus patients who are elderly, from poor areas, and those who are of BAME origin are more likely to die from Covid-19.
The research published today, Thursday 7th May, signalled those from deprived social backgrounds were at a higher risk of death, while patients with uncontrolled diabetes or severe cases of asthma were also more likely to succumb to the virus.
The results chime with separate data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier today which showed black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related death than white males, while black females are 4.3 times more likely than white females.
The ONS figures, which have been adjusted for age, suggest that men and women from all ethnic minority groups – except females with Chinese ethnicity – are at greater risk of dying from Covid-19 compared with those of white ethnicity.
Academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), working on behalf of NHS England, analysed pseudonymous health data of more than 17 million UK adults, and 5,707 deaths in hospitals, to deliver what scientists said was the best evidence to date on risk factors associated with coronavirus deaths.
Researchers found death from Covid-19 was strongly associated with being male, with a hazard ratio of 1.99, meaning they were almost twice as likely to die from the disease as females.
That risk was greater for people with uncontrolled diabetes, which had a hazard ratio of 2.36, while black people were at higher risk of death than white people, with a hazard ratio of between 1.71 and 2.17, the academics said.
Researchers said medical problems or deprivation only accounted for a small part in the excess risk of death in people from BAME backgrounds, although further research was needed to understand why.
The research was carried out via the OpenSAFELY analytics platform, which allowed GP records to be linked where they are stored for individual care.
Professor Liam Smeeth, professor of clinical epidemiology at LSHTM, an NHS doctor and co-lead on the study, said: “We need highly accurate data on which patients are most at risk in order to manage the pandemic and improve patient care.
“The answers provided by this OpenSAFELY analysis are of crucial importance to countries around the world.
“For example, it is very concerning to see that the higher risks faced by people from BAME backgrounds are not attributable to identifiable underlying health conditions.”
Further analysis using OpenSAFELY data is already under way.
Picture: Bishop Paul McAleenan. (Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk).