People from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds in Britain are more likely to be over-exposed to and under-protected from the coronavirus, according to a report by a race equality thinktank.
The Runnymede Trust found that people from BAME backgrounds faced greater barriers in shielding from Covid-19, with employment, public transport, and multigenerational and overcrowded households all risk factors.
Those from BAME backgrounds are over-represented in Covid-19 diagnosis, severe illness and deaths. A Public Health England report published in June found people from Bangladeshi backgrounds faced the greatest risk of dying from the disease.
The findings of the survey of 2,585 adults in Britain, including 750 from BAME backgrounds, suggest that one of the main reasons ethnic minorities are at greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than their white counterparts is that they are more exposed to coronavirus.
BAME communities – in particular Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black African groups – are more likely to live in larger, multigenerational or overcrowded households, reducing their ability to shield and self-isolate.
They are also over-represented in key worker roles: 28% of BAME respondents classified themselves as key workers, with the highest percentage among people of black African backgrounds (38%), compared with 23% of white British people surveyed.
Previous studies have shown that people from BAME groups are over-represented in these jobs, particularly in frontline health and social care roles.
People from minority ethnic backgrounds were also more than twice as likely as white people to have had to use public transport during lockdown, increasing their risk of exposure to the virus.
BAME key workers were more likely to report feeling they faced additional risks through not having adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. This was highest among respondents from a Bangladeshi background (50%).
BAME people were also more likely to feel they were being given tasks that exposed them to the virus, and to say they had been ignored after raising concerns about safety.
Furthermore, the report found important government public health messaging aimed at reducing the transmission of coronavirus, including key slogans such as Stay Home, was not reaching all BAME communities.
BAME respondents were also less likely to be aware of economic measures including the furlough scheme, and measures allowing those out of work because of the crisis to claim universal credit, and making statutory sick pay available from the first day of self-isolating.
The Runnymede Trust said these risk factors helped explain why certain groups had been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. Dr Zubaida Haque, the interim director of the trust, told the BBC: “While we have all faced the same storm, we are not in the same boat.
“Our findings explain why we are seeing outbreaks in places like Leicester, densely populated areas with multigenerational households. Many people are also struggling to pay bills, so have to leave their homes to work. Temporary housing and financial support should be made available to facilitate those who need to self-isolate.”
Recommendations include risk assessments for BAME employees and improvements in the NHS test-and-trace system reaching the most vulnerable, including working closer with local authorities, which already have trusted relationships with their communities.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We know that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds, and, following the findings of the Public Health England report, the equalities minister is now taking forward vital work to tackle these disparities and protect our most vulnerable communities from the impact of the virus.”