Ethnic differences are a big factor in the virus risk. Let’s be open about it
We may disagree about the government’s Covid strategy and the quality of the communication. We may even disagree about the timing of the decision late on Thursday to restrict much of the north of England, although I found it rather hypocritical that many who were blaming the government for acting too slowly at the start of the crisis are now angered they acted too fast.
But we can surely all agree that the announcement itself was a farce, a pantomime of Orwellian proportions. Here was a government imposing restrictions on a region where transmission is rising faster within some Asian communities, and on the eve of the most important festival in Islam, yet Matt Hancock said nothing of this, talking instead of transmission “between families” and “multigenerational households”. This was ministerial statement by code.
Over the next 48 hours, information came out in dribs and drabs — but not from ministers. The director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen said that 79% of recent cases in the predominantly white city had been among people from a south Asian background. Statistics from Public Health England for the week ending July 26 showed that 1,369 of those testing positive in England (37%) were Asian or Asian-British — a group that made up 7.5% of the population in the last census. Shouldn’t ministers have helped us interpret these statistics, rather than pretend they didn’t exist?