In a week where England’s third national lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic came into force, it should not be forgotten that, while blighting society as a whole, the virus has adversely affected some communities more than others and revealed deep-rooted inequalities within British society.
When taking into consideration social, economic and environmental factors, there are significant differences in the demographics of who has been hardest hit by the virus, particularly for Black and South Asian ethnic groups.
The Office for National Statistics revealed back in mid-December of 2020 that the Covid-19 mortality rate for those of Black African or Black Caribbean ethnicity in the first half of that year was two to two and a half times higher compared to their White ethnic counterparts.
Upon discovering that death rates among ethnic minorities were higher than those among White ethnic groups, the ONS analysed a number of factors which could affect the exposure people have to Covid-19. These included social and economic factors, such as people’s jobs, finances, where they live, and housing conditions. Following this investigation, numerous disparities were discovered.
In the eyes of Olivier Tsemo, the CEO of the Sheffield and District African and Caribbean Community Association [SADACCA], putting an end to these inequalities exposed by the pandemic will be a crucial step towards ending systemic racism and establishing racial equality in the UK.
Speaking to the Leaders Council, Tsemo took a moment to pay tribute to the hard work of the SADACCA organisation and its staff during the pandemic but urged that systemic racism must be eliminated and social gaps closed if equality is to be achieved.
Tsemo said: “The actions that the leadership of SADACCA has taken together since March 2020 is potentially lifesaving, not only for our own lives but also the lives of our family, friends and many others in our communities. We knew that the impact of the pandemic would be catastrophic, and the combination of our community and our energies has delivered a great number of services at a true time of need. The delivery of these services will continue until our city; our country is back on track. We will continue to apply the same working formula to solve the problem in our community.”
He added: “What is becoming clearer through the coronavirus pandemic, however, is that while all communities are impacted by the virus, it is having a disproportionate impact on our black communities.
“It is not the ‘great leveller’ spoken of by the media and those living in more privileged situations, the effects are not the same. This crisis has the potential to worsen longstanding inequalities faced by these communities. In most cases this is already the case in Sheffield.”
Indeed, the ONS findings provide significant support to Tsemo’s words. One of its discoveries was that Black and Asian men are more likely to have a job associated with higher Covid-19 death rates because they work in professions with more exposure to other people at work. People of minority ethnic groups were found to make up a quarter of dental practitioners, medical practitioners and opticians, as well as being more likely to work as nurses, nursing assistants, technicians and radiographers. Meanwhile, many Black and Asian men work in occupations such as transport, as well as other roles such as security and cleaning.
Furthermore, studies have uncovered that many ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in urban or deprived areas where death rates from Covid-19 are higher, as shown by the death rates in more built-up areas between March and July 2020. In England and Wales up to July 2020, the mortality rate of Covid-19 was shown to be around two times more in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.
The ONS revealed that at the time of the last census, urban areas were comprised of 16.7 per cent ethnic minority groups and 83.3 per cent White groups, compared to rural zones where 97.5 per cent of residents were White and 2.5 per cent were of ethnic minorities. Estimated infection rates in the autumn of 2020 were also shown to be higher in urban areas compared to more rural regions.
The most-built up areas have also returned the highest Covid-19 death rates, and these have been earmarked as the types of areas where ethnic minorities are most likely to live. In 2011, 7.5 per cent of residents in such areas were Black, with 14.3 per cent being Asian and 3.5 per cent of mixed ethnicity.
Of all ethnic groups, members of the Black community were identified as being the most likely to live in a built-up urban area.
Addressing these findings, Tsemo continued: “It is clear at present that members of our Black communities are more likely to find themselves in lower paid jobs, living in overcrowded homes or homeless. Diabetes is more prevalent among us and most of our people are working in low paid jobs as key workers.”
When asked how one could hope to close the social gaps giving rise to these inequalities, Tsemo called for more collaboration within the Black community as well as with other communities, alongside further investment into community spaces and proactive engagement in order to help establish a level-playing field of opportunity.
He concluded: “As we start 2021 and enter a new year, the message from the Black community is loud and clear: let us have more collaboration and let us allow the Black community to support itself through its own infrastructure. Let us re-energise our community spaces, develop creative ways of engagement other than online, and let us work together to beat systemic racism in our country.”
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash