17th February 2021
Finally, following 9 months of tireless work with our incredible partners, the Government recognise ethnicity as a Covid-19 risk factor. While the problem isn’t solved, it means tens of thousands of people from BME communities will be prioritised for the vaccine and statutory sick pay.
This announcement is a watershed moment, signalling a recognition that Class and Race impacts your vulnerability to Covid-19.
The Runnymede Trust has repeatedly called on ethnicity to be treated as a risk factor in the Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and safeguarding measures to be implemented as a result. This is a welcomed step, but it should have happened months ago when it was also urgently needed.
By pulling together a trifecta of risk factors – ethnicity, social deprivation and body mass index – we offer a greatly expanded group of vulnerable people far higher levels of protection.
Remembering that around half of this group has already been vaccinated, the rest of this expanded cohort will also see their priority on the vaccine waiting list rise.
As importantly, the expanded availability of Statutory Sick Pay will go a long way to ensuring exposure to Covid is dramatically reduced for those among the new shielding group who, as front line and key workers, often come from Black and minority ethnic communities.
It is time now for the Government to take a step further to ensure that BME communities are protected and taking the vaccine. This means ensuring that vaccines are delivered by trusted public health professionals at the heart of the community. We also encourage the government to launch more pop-up vaccination centres and to deploy mobile vaccine units that can literally take the Covid jab to the doorsteps of our most vulnerable.
The survey, Over Exposed and Under-Protected - The Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Great Britain (conducted by the Runnymede Trust and ICM in June 2020), illuminates why BME groups are at greater risk from Covid-19: they are more likely to be working outside their home, more likely to be using public transport, more likely to be working in key worker roles, less likely to be protected with PPE and more likely to live in multigenerational, overcrowded housing, so much less able to self-isolate and shield.
The survey, by Dr Zubaida Haque, Laia Becares and Nick Treloar, highlights that one-third of Black and ethnic minority groups (33%) are working outside of their home, including 41% of Black African groups and 36% of Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups (compared to 27% of white groups), therefore increasing their exposure to Covid-19.
It highlights that more than one third of Black communities (34%) are in key worker roles, with nearly four in ten from Black African groups (37%) in frontline key worker employment such as public transport, health and social care (including care workers), teaching (including teaching assistants) and social work.
Shockingly, half of Bangladeshi key workers (50%), more than four in ten Pakistani (42%) and Black African (41%) key worker respondents reported they had not been supplied with adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
The survey also finds that BME groups are much less aware of the government’s life-saving public health messaging around Covid-19 – the survey found BME groups were much less aware of government slogans ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ and ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’, leaving them under-protected and vulnerable to coronavirus, ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’.
Policy recommendations to protect Black and ethnic minority groups from Covid-19 include:
1 - Employers carry out risk assessments for staff with vulnerable characteristics, including Black and minority ethnic backgrounds
2 - The social security safety net should be significantly strengthened, including Universal Credit, child benefit and housing support
3 - Employers should ensure that all key workers in public-facing roles have access to adequate PPE.
4 - Government should prioritise a tailored Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) programme ensuring vulnerable BME communities are identified and supported.
5 - Government should increase Statutory Sickness Pay and widen eligibility.