Ministers have been accused of not taking seriously the threat posed to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons by Covid-19, after the release of an official review of the issue was delayed.
The report was commissioned to analyse how factors such as ethnicity, obesity and gender can affect people’s vulnerability to Covid-19 but has already missed the publication deadline set for the end of May. Health bosses sought “insight” after it was reported that deaths among BAME communities were disproportionately high.
“It is unacceptable that this review should be delayed without a given date for its publication. BAME communities need answers,” said Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary.
Announcing the review’s launch in early May, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially among care workers and those in the NHS.”
On Monday night, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied reports the delay was down to official concerns of potential civil unrest linked to global anger over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck.
“Ministers received initial findings today. They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week,” a spokeswoman said.
Citing an unnamed government source, Sky News had reported that the review’s release had been pushed back because of “worries” around “current global events”.
The source was quoted as saying there were concerns in Whitehall about the “close proximity to the current situation in America”, where protesters are demanding an end to police violence against black people. The source reportedly said it would be a “bad combination” if the review was released amid such tensions.
PHE would initially say only that the “report will be published shortly”. DHSC later added: “It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events.”