Boris Johnson faces calls for independent inquiry into BAME Covid-19 deaths | Inequality

Boris Johnson is facing mounting pressure to launch an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME) across Britain.

Sadiq Khan has joined hundreds of signatories, including Doreen Lawrence and author Malorie Blackman, in a letter to the prime minister calling for a comprehensive investigation into race and health inequalities in Britain. The coalition organised by the Ubele Initiative claims the government’s current review has limited focus and lacks transparency.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white men and women. The impact of coronavirus on BAME communities has been stark. On Friday, the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre reported that 33% of critically ill Covid-19 patients were from a minority background, despite accounting for 19% of the UK’s overall population. This figure has remained consistent since 1 March.

The mayor of London said: “This pandemic must be a wake-up call for our country and the government’s current review is not enough. We need a wide-ranging independent public inquiry that will get to the root of these problems. A public inquiry is crucial to ensure that communities are properly involved and to help build trust and confidence in its findings.”

The letter called for the inquiry to be broadened to include the levels of exposure BAME staff are facing, and whether employers are fulfilling their duty of care, as well as an examination of funding levels in areas where there is a significant BAME population.

Khan has also written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chair, and says the commission has a “moral responsibility” to carry out a wide-ranging investigation into the worse outcomes for BAME people that is not limited to the higher rates of deaths and critical illness.

City Hall is also analysing available data to improve the understanding of the impact Covid-19 is having on BAME Londoners, looking into the social and economic factors behind infections and deaths, and its other effects, including education, employment and welfare.

Yvonne Field, the chief executive of the Ubele Initiative, said: “The government’s handling of its biggest disaster since World War II has left communities reeling throughout the country. We welcome the mayor of London’s decision to support the growing call for an independent public inquiry. It is important that community-led action continues to be supported, and that BAME communities are at the heart of solutions moving forward. We have to bring the government to account for this catastrophic systemic failure.”

The government’s review, led by Dr Kevin Fenton at Public Health England, is due to be published at the end of the month.

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