An Indian-origin academic on Friday revealed that he had peer-reviewed a government-led inquiry paper that laid out some recommendations on tackling the higher COVID-19 risks faced by Britain's ethnic minorities, which should be published soon.
Professor Raj Bhopal's revelation came as the UK's Opposition Labour Party branded the blocking of a paper that could help save more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lives a "scandal", after it emerged that a Public Health England (PHE) report released last week was in effect incomplete.
Without recommendations there can be no actions. It needs to be published next week and those who have denied its existence must apologise to the public, said Prof. Bhopal, Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the Usher Institute, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh.
He revealed that the paper he had reviewed had evidence from thousands of individuals and organisations and was intended as a complementary part of PHE's Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19' report tabled in the House of Commons last week by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
"It is a scandal that the government appears to have blocked a review that included recommendations that could help save Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic lives during this crisis, said Marsha De Cordova MP, Labour's Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary.
"The government's failure to publish this review is yet another in a litany of failures to support BAME communities during Covid-19. The government must now urgently publish these recommendations in full and provide an explanation for its lack of transparency on this review. Black Lives Matter is more than just a slogan, we cannot wait any longer for action to tackle racial injustice, she said.
Hancock had announced at the time that UK Equalities Minister Liz Truss would be leading a further review into the factors behind the ethnic variations of COVID-19 impact in the country.
The PHE report's main findings indicated that older Indian-origin men were within a higher risk category of coronavirus deaths in England, with overall people of Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean, Other Black ethnicity and Chinese ethnicities between 10 and 50 per cent at higher risk of death when compared to White British people. Those of Bangladeshi heritage were found to be dying at twice the rate of white Britons, black males at the rate of 3.9 times and Asian males at 2.5 times.
The outcome had triggered widespread reactions across the board, including from MPs in Parliament as well as groups such as the British Medical Association (BMA) and British Association of Physicians of Indian-origin (BAPIO) raising concerns over the lack of any corresponding recommendations or safety measures attached to the review after weeks of review.
The report has failed to give us direction, and therefore it lacks teeth, said BAPIO Chairman Dr J S Bamrah, in reaction to the findings.
It's another nail in the coffin of equality and transparency unless the government acts swiftly to correct the anomaly, added BAPIO Secretary Prof Parag Singhal.
The PHE has now said that it plans to publish further details next week, which would include a draft report prepared by one of its doctors, Professor Kevin Fenton, based on views, concerns and ideas of a significant number of individuals and organisations within ethnic minority communities.
This important engagement work will inform the work the equalities minister is now taking forward. We intend to both formally submit this work to the minister next week and will publish it at the same time, the PHE said.