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New report calls for immediate action on COVID testing for black and minority ethnic communities

Read the full briefing.

Our latest briefing with the New Policy Institute examines the data behind Public Health England’s two recent reports. While the reports themselves were limited, the data is of a quality that means we can draw powerful conclusions about the inequalities facing black and minority ethnic people and the urgency of an immediate response.

Our analysis shows the risk of death from COVID for black and minority ethnic people is 12% higher for working-age and 19% higher for age 65 plus than for White British people. However, higher levels of pre-existing conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes in black and minority ethnic communities do not explain this difference.

The briefing argues that the there is sufficient data in the PHE report to show action to address higher risk faced by black and minority ethnic communities is needed now. A further inquiry is not an immediate priority.

When we looked at the risk of infection, we calculated the average risk of infection (confirmed by a test) for black and minority ethnic people to be 56% higher than White British for working-age and 69% higher for those aged 65 plus.

A deeply concerning issue we uncovered was the low rate of testing among some particular groups. Pakistani and Bangladeshi men and women, as well as men of all ethnicities are underrepresented in tests. This urgently needs to be addressed as we move towards a “test and trace” system to contain the virus.

This will require the NHS and PHE working with trusted intermediaries and reaching out to ensure opportunities for testing are taken-up, barriers to accessing health care are removed and appropriate support provided.

The briefing also say there must be a wider immediate policy response to support, protect and provide for those whose day-to-day lives simply leave them so much more exposed to infection in the first place.

These immediate actions have to be accompanied by action to address racial inequality over the longer term.  Whether that is improved access to health and care, or whether tackling poor housing conditions, the time for a response is now.

Responses from the sector:

“I’ve been long arguing for ‘action and accountability for tackling covid19 within bame communities’ – this report confirms the urgency for this” – Dr Gurch Randhawa

“This is an important and powerful piece of work. The Race Equality Foundation and NPI have demonstrated conclusively that the Government and health system need to get serious about acting on the different risks faced by different groups of men and women – and they need to do it now. We are particularly concerned about the risks faced by BAME men. The Race Equality Foundation has put forward a pragmatic list of proposals which will save lives: now the Government and the health system must act fast and implement them.” – Martin Tod, Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum

“The Race Equality Foundation has produced an important intervention that rightly focuses our collective minds on the need for urgent action to ensure we reduce the stark inequalities experienced in particular by BAME citizens with regard to Covid-19. We do not need another inquiry to tell us that we need to get test and trace out to people from all backgrounds, that we need to ensure BAME key workers have the right PPE or that we need to have a more consistent approach to making information and advice available in community languages. We can and must get on with these things. We are grateful that the REF has injected a sense of urgency into this debate.” – Dr Charlotte Augst, Chief Executive National Voices