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Increased Covid-19 infection and death rates among ethnic minorities in Britain are mainly driven by social and economic factors, such as occupation, deprivation and where we live. So says the government's own Race Disparity Unit, confirming what the Socialist Party has argued from the start.
Government scientist Dr Raghib Ali confirmed the evidence "doesn't suggest there's any genetic explanation." However, he also said: "I don't think structural racism is a reasonable explanation."
This is because "it misses the very large number of non-ethnic minority groups, so whites basically, who also live in deprived areas and overcrowded housing and with high risk occupations." It is absolutely true that conditions must be improved for the whole working class. But it is also true that these socioeconomic factors disproportionately affect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers.
Capitalist commentators are clinging onto this as a dismissal of structural racism. But as the Socialist previously explained, it's precisely these factors that show class inequality, the fundamental problem, is reinforced by capitalism's structural racism. (See 'Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality' at socialistparty.org.uk.)
This new report follows studies showing death rates are up to three times as high for BAME people. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested that almost 60,000 more coronavirus deaths could have occurred in England and Wales if more white people had faced the same risks.
Even when all known factors are accounted for, there is still an unexplained increased risk for certain ethnic groups. This may be due to factors the ONS does not cover, such as asylum seekers and refugees having to share bathroom facilities with multiple other families in hostels.
The main response from the government has been to introduce a new 'Community Champions' scheme, with part of the funding used to "enhance existing communication strategies." This is just another insulting attempt at misdirection by the government.
Rather than use the funding to solve the identified problems, they are rolling out policies that suggest BAME people have somehow failed to receive or understand the same warnings as our white counterparts!
Instead, the government should start with policies like those suggested, in response to the report, by the British Medical Association council chair: "To offer adequate funding that encourages individuals to be tested and to self-isolate if infected, given evidence that many feel that financial loss acts as a deterrent to do so."
Ending the excess risk for BAME people means ending the appalling working and living conditions that can affect anyone in the working class. As a start, the unions must lead a fight for work or full pay, full funding and public ownership of the health and care sector, and democratic workers' and community control of health and safety measures.
Child poverty (40)
Article dated 28 October 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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