Black and minority ethnic groups (BME) as well as people on lower incomes have faced devastating health and financial consequences during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, according to a new report from the Runnymede Trust.

It found that BME communities were not only over-represented in Covid-19 severe illnesses and deaths because of long-standing racial and socio-economic inequalities, but as lockdown eases the economic fallout is further exposing vulnerable groups to coronavirus.

The survey conducted by the Runnymede Trust and ICM in June 2020  highlights that one-third of Black and ethnic minority groups (33%) are working outside of their home, including 41% of Black African groups and 36% of Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups (compared to 27% of white groups), therefore increasing their exposure to Covid-19.

One third of Black communities (34%) are in key worker roles, with nearly four in ten from Black African groups (37%) in frontline key worker employment such as public transport, health and social care (including care workers), teaching (including teaching assistants) and social work.

In addition, half of Bangladeshi key workers (50%), more than four in ten Pakistani (42%) and Black African (41%) key worker respondents reported they had not been supplied with adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). 

The survey also finds that BME groups are much less aware of the government’s life-saving public health messaging around Covid-19. It found BME groups were much less aware of government slogans ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ and ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’, leaving them under-protected and vulnerable to coronavirus.

Covid-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis

It recommends that employers including healthcare settings carry out risk assessments for staff with vulnerable characteristics, including BME backgrounds and employers should ensure that all key workers in public-facing roles have access to adequate PPE.  

Other recommedations include the government prioritising a tailored Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) programme ensuring vulnerable BME communities are identified and supported and increasing Statutory Sickness Pay with widened eligibility. 

The report concluded: "Our survey conclusively shows that the Covid-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis; it is also a social and economic one. But it also reveals that the burden of the pandemic is not equal across all demographic groups. We are all facing the same storm, but there are major differences in how people from different ethnic and socioeconomic groups are able to cope, and to recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19.

"Now more than ever, the government must act to protect vulnerable groups from desperate times which lie ahead. The government must recognise the impact of poverty and disadvantage on access to social care and healthcare, and on disease severity for people in BME communities."