London mayor calls for ethnicity record of COVID-19 deaths

London: London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday called for ethnicity to be recorded on all death certificates to expose the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 and other illnesses are having on the UK capital’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

The disproportionate impact on these communities has become increasingly clear with a recent Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis estimating that hospital death rates are highest among those with Pakistani, Black Caribbean and Black African heritage.

The IFS study had also found that Indians made up one in 10 of all foreign-born doctors in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) putting them in the high risk category for COVID-19.

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London’s Pakistani-origin mayor fears it’s not possible to understand the full extent of this disparity as, unlike in Scotland, ethnicity is not recorded on death certificates in England.

“People from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and we need urgent action to reveal the true extent of this inequality, said Khan.

We need to fully expose the effect it is having on our communities, have honest conversations about what is behind it, why it is happening, and work hard to tackle these problems. That’s why I’m calling for greater transparency and bringing city leaders together to see what we can do,” he said.

City Hall, the mayoral office, said it is analysing available data to improve the understanding of this disproportionate impact, looking into the social and economic factors behind infections and deaths, and its impact in other ways, including education, employment and welfare.

“I’m working hard to do all I can to support and fight for London’s diverse communities, but the government cannot ignore the structural problems in our society that mean minority ethnic Londoners are more likely to work in lower paid jobs, live in overcrowded accommodation and suffer from underlying health conditions which put them at greater risk,” added Khan.

While welcoming the government’s ongoing review into the disproportionate effect of the virus on certain ethnicities, the Opposition Labour Party member stressed that it is only by adding ethnicity onto death certificates that a complete picture of the impact on those from BAME backgrounds can be tracked.

Khan’s office said it is working on bringing together city and community leaders from across the UK capital to further analyse what can be done to protect Londoners at risk.

Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director of race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust, said: We know from recent improvements in the official reporting of COVID-19 data that particular ethnic minority groups are over-represented among hospital deaths with COVID-19 but we don’t know about deaths with COVID-19 among ethnic minority groups in the community or in care homes.

“This is wholly inadequate during a pandemic. It is critical that we get the whole picture of who is being affected so that we can identify and shield the most vulnerable from COVID-19. We agree that it’s important to have ethnicity recorded on death certificates, as it will allow us to identify any differences in mortality rates between ethnic groups.”

The first set of NHS data broken down by ethnicity last month revealed that BAME groups made up 16.2 per cent of the overall COVID-19 death rate, higher than their 14 per cent proportion within the wider population, leading to a Public Health England-led review into the factors behind this disparity.

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