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Reflections on the impact of Covid-19 on the Chinese community in Manchester

Throughout the pandemic lockdown we have heard of issues of inequality and racism targeting the Asian communities, and particularly the Chinese community. Once such example of a racist incident and the challenges of supporting people from the Chinese community is described by Circle Steele
the Chief Executive Officer of Wai Yin Society, a large registered charity in Manchester.

Ms A is a Chinese single mother with young children. She experienced domestic violence and moved out of the family home into separate accommodation during the lockdown. In the new accommodation, she experienced hostility from residents, who called her ‘Covid Virus’ because she was Chinese. She was extremely anxious about the racial comments and attitude toward her and her children. This resulted in her deciding to move back to the family home and her ex-husband, despite him being the perpetrator of the domestic abuse. Whilst supporting victims of domestic abuse has been high on the public agenda, for Mrs A, she had to choose between a domestic abuse situation and experiencing racial discrimination. In the end, Wai Yin Society were able to support her situation, so she could move out to her current accommodation and report the racist situation to the Police Hate Crime Department.

Covid 19 has also led to challenging situations for the Chinese community understanding the public health messages. An older Chinese couple contacted Wai Yin Society’s Support Worker to request some face masks as personal protective equipment (PPE), given that the Mr B was an older carer for his partner, who needed to go to the renal dialysis centre multiple times per week, and also needed face masks when shopping. 

On 15 April, when a Wai Yin Support Worker delivered boxes of masks to their home, help was also given to translate some letters for the elderly couple which included a letter from the GP advising Mr L to “shield” himself at home for 12 weeks, as he was considered a ‘high risk’ patient. The letter was discovered four weeks after the government issued this advice on 16 March. The Wai Yin Support Worker immediately explained the letter to the couple, sharing what support Wai Yin was able to provide, including essential services to support the vulnerable.

Circle Steele followed up by calling Mr L’s English speaking GP to highlight this concern to ensure that “shielded” patients were aware of their situation. This incident also raised concerns about the lack of translated materials for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people to understand such important and vital communication. It raised the question of how many in UK have had this problem?

In another shielding-related case, a ‘shielding letter’ was sent addressed to Ms C three and a half years after her death. This was obviously very upsetting and a shock to the family. One wonders if Ms C still on the GP register. Of the 1.5 million shielded people, how many are alive, and how many have been followed up?

Circle Steel states that whilst we must protect vulnerable people during the lockdown period, sadly such experiences have taught her that the vulnerable are becoming even more vulnerable. We find ourselves not only fighting Covid-19, but also needing to tackle inequality and racial hatred. The Wai Yin Society would like to share this message: “Spread love, not hate”. Together, we can stand equally to successfully fight Covid-19.