Keir Starmer and Doreen Lawrence call for “swift action” from government to protect BAME communities from Covid-19

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Labour’s race relations adviser, have called for “swift action” from the Government to protect Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The intervention comes on the back of growing evidence that people from BAME communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Starmer and Lawrence have called on the Government to adopt NHS England’s advice to “risk assess staff from BAME backgrounds, along with others who may be at higher risk” for all employers.

While welcoming the Public Health England inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, the letter calls for action to “be taken now to help protect BAME communities”, and warns “ministers were too slow at the early stages of this pandemic. It is important that the lessons are learnt.”

The letter follows the launch of Labour’s review into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, led by Doreen Lawrence and Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha De Cordova.

Full text of the letter from Keir Starmer and Doreen Lawrence to Boris Johnson:

Dear Prime Minister,

We welcomed the Government’s decision to launch a Public Health England (PHE) inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities and will work constructively with ministers to ensure this inquiry is published as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we believe action can be taken now to help protect BAME communities from the coronavirus.

Advice published by NHS England last month advised all NHS employers to risk assess staff from BAME backgrounds, along with others who may be at higher risk. It said:

“Emerging UK and international data suggest that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid19. Public Health England have been asked by DHSC to investigate this.

“In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”[1]

We are writing to ask that the Government now consider including this advice for all employers.

We recognise the huge pressures Covid-19 is placing on businesses and public services across the country. However, there are steps that organisations can take to help care and support those who are disproportionately affected by the virus. This is particularly important as the Government seeks to loosen the lockdown restrictions and encourage some people to return to back to work.

We are concerned that ministers were too slow at the early stages of this pandemic. It is important that the lessons are learnt from this and swift action is now taken to help mitigate the impact of this virus.

We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Lawrence                                                     Keir Starmer MP

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