Over-Exposed and Under-Protected

Written by:
Zubaida Haque, Laia Becares and Nick Treloar
Read time:
25 minutes

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.

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