I have been contacted by many constituents about the death of George Floyd.
What happened to George Floyd was truly shocking and I completely understand the anger that so many people, myself included, feel at what we saw on that horrible video. I am glad to hear that legal proceedings are now being taken against those it is alleged were responsible for his death, and this is now a matter for the criminal justice system.
I have also been appalled by the violence we have seen in the USA and by the response of the police in some cities. It is essential that the right to protest peacefully and to report on what is happening are upheld. The President of the United States should be seeking to calm things down rather than provoke by his public comments and threatening to send in the military. I have asked the Trade Secretary whether she will review rubber bullet or tear gas exports to the USA and I support the public call by the Shadow Trade Secretary for the suspension of such sales.
How many more innocent black people are we going to see die at the hands of the police in the United States of America before the changes which the Black Lives Matter campaign is calling for – respecting the dignity and worth of everyone – take place? I would add that the arming of the police in the USA, and their readiness to use their weapons, is of course a really important factor in the number of terrible incidents and tragic deaths we have seen there.
Some of those who have contacted me have also raised the case of Belly Mujinga who died of Covid after having been reportedly spat at by a member of the public. I was deeply shocked by these reports and by her subsequent death. No public service worker should ever experience this kind of behaviour, we all mourn for her family’s terrible loss and we must ensure that all public service workers, including those in transport, have full access to PPE. As I understand it from press reports, the British Transport Police have concluded after their investigation that the alleged assault was not the cause of her death and you may have seen the further details reported by the BBC.
I have taken the matter up with the British Transport Police.
On the issue of the distribution of coronavirus deaths, including the virus’ impact on the BAME community, the report has now been published and is available here:
The key findings are as follows:
“An analysis of survival among confirmed COVID-19 cases and using more detailed ethnic groups, shows that after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.
These analyses did not account for the effect of occupation, comorbidities or obesity. These are important factors because they are associated with the risk of acquiring COVID-19, the risk of dying, or both. Other evidence has shown that when comorbidities are included, the difference in risk of death among hospitalised patients is greatly reduced.”
This review confirms what we already knew; ie that racial and health inequalities amplify the risks of Covid-19. Those in the poorest households and people of colour are disproportionately impacted, with black, Asian and minority ethnic people more likely to die from Covid and more likely to be admitted to intensive care. But when it comes to the question of how we reduce these disparities, the report presents no recommendations. Having the information is a start and further research to fully understand all the factors is urgently needed, but we also need action. That is why we will press the Government to mitigate the risks faced by these communities and to act to protect everyone, including black, Asian and minority ethnic people.
Hilary Benn MP