The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today called on the Prime Minister to commission an independent public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the capital’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
The impact on these communities has become increasingly clear in recent weeks with statistics from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing clear disproportionality. ONS figures earlier this month showed that black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white men and women, after taking into account age and socio-demographic factors.
The Mayor has joined with hundreds of community leaders, academics and activists in signing the Ubele Initiative’s call for an independent public inquiry to investigate the level of exposure to COVID-19 across all BAME key workers; the way BAME communities were factored into the preparedness and emergency planning; an examination of funding levels across communities; and the impact of the COVID-19 emergency powers and social distancing policy on BAME communities.
Sadiq has consistently raised serious concerns about the impact of the virus on BAME communities, successfully lobbying Ministers to routinely collect and publish demographics of those dying in hospital, calling for ethnicity data to be added to death certificates and urging the Equality and Human Rights Commission to undertake a full inquiry.
This week the Mayor convened a meeting of experts from transport, business, health, academia and the voluntary and community sector, as well as trade union representatives to discuss this further. City Hall is also analysing available data to improve the understanding of this disproportionate impact, looking into the social and economic factors behind infections and deaths, and its impact in other ways, including education, employment and welfare.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is shocking that Londoners of different ethnicities are being impacted by COVID-19 in such disproportionate ways. It has exposed the major inequalities in our society and simply cannot be ignored.
“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.
“Every Londoner, regardless of background or ethnicity, deserves the opportunity to live and work in safety, and only by asking the difficult questions can we move towards fundamental and lasting change.”
Yvonne Field, CEO of The Ubele Initiative, said: “The devastating impact of COVID-19 on London’s BAME communities is deeply disturbing but not in the least surprising. The government’s handling of its’ biggest disaster since the 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.