The pandemic has had an unequal impact on ethnic groups, with BAME groups more likely to experience serious illness and death from Covid-19. The evidence to explain why this is the case is still emerging, but social inequality certainly plays a role as BAME groups are more likely to live in overcrowded housing and work in sectors with high infection rates (e.g. carer, security guard). And yet, even when controlling for region, deprivation, age and sex, people of Bangladeshi descent are twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as people who were ethnically white. The disparities, along with the rise of the international Black Lives Matter movement, led to many people commenting that tackling racism and racial inequality should be a priority after the pandemic.
One Asian-British man in his 70s from Yorkshire told us has been isolating since before the official lockdown due to his age and his wife’s diabetes. He says he feels people are friendlier now, and:
“It has been invaluable having contact, albeit by WhatsApp, with people on our road with whom we had never had contact and didn’t know. Neighbours have been so helpful getting prescriptions and been generous with their time.”
He is worried about inequalities in society – he says he and his wife are lucky that although not wealthy, they have a nice house and garden and feel that people on their own, single parents and those in poverty will have struggled during this period. He feels that the wealthy should pay a fair amount of tax, and tax avoidance needs to be tackled.
“What we both feel even more strongly than before is that this must lead to a much more equitable society.”
He also has a relative who works in the NHS, and hopes health workers, and those of different ethnic backgrounds, will be more respected as a result of the pandemic:
“The NHS has risen to the occasion despite having been deprived of money for so long. The nurse in our family has in effect suffered paycuts year on year and all the low paid workers on whom we all depend have really shown how important they all are to making society a better place…
Sadly people still discriminate against people of other colours/races despite the fact that so many have given their lives in the fight against Covid. Hopefully more will appreciate the huge contribution people so often denigrated have made.”
“Violence, intimidation and racism towards us has increased.”
Man, Asian, 40s, West Midlands
“I am from a BAME community and I live in an area full of non-English speakers who have clearly not received the government waffle and have partied all lockdown long. Two issues here – the government is not clear and marginalized communities have not been informed (and whether you want them here or not they are here and should be told). On that note, due to lockdown, the police and community wardens have not wanted to visit to tell these communities to stop partying and being antisocial.”
Woman (Mixed ethnicity), 40s, Wales
“Notable that BAME older workforce effected – most likely to have been furloughed and made redundant as in my family’s case. [Its’] difficult for those people to get re employed elsewhere [and] difficult for them to have activities to do without a job during lockdown – they only have their diaspora, local communities actives are closed. Intense loneliness.”
Woman (Other ethnic category), 20s, London
“BAME communities key workers had to cope with COVID-19 without PPE and left to die. An enquiry into BAME deaths should be carried out and their situation should be improved.”
Woman (other ethnic category), 60s, London