Impact of Covid19 on West Midlands Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities is an ‘urgent medical emergency’ – and was avoidable


Task-force finds that:

  • The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the West Midlands BAME community ‘is not just an equality, diversity and inclusion issue – it is an urgent medical emergency’. 
  • A perfect storm of factors meant that the West Midlands BAME community was hit hardest - yet the data and funding to stop a second wave is not in pace
  • West Midlands’ most diverse communities suffered the biggest cuts in public health funding - but ethnicity data still missing from death certificates or testing results  
  • Calls for a formal independent public inquiry into the Covid-19 fatalities in the BAME community 
  • Action needed immediately to protect our BAME community ahead of a second Covid wave


A Task Force set up by Liam Byrne MP was shocked to hear of the sheer scale of the disproportionate - and avoidable - deaths among the West Midlands’ Black and Minority Ethnic communities during the Covid-19 crisis. 


The Taskforce which has met for three months heard hours of first hand testimony from families who lost loved ones to Covid, and today presents its final 42-page report, with ten key findings from the experience of families who suffered devastating loss, and thirty-five Recommendations for ministers, the region’s Members of Parliament, the Mayor of the West Midlands, NHS and Social Care leaders, Public Health Directors and local councils. 


The work of the Task Force was today commended by Baroness Doreen Lawrence who is leading Labour’s national inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, and Marsha de Cordova MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. 


The task force discovered that Black people are over four times as likely to die from COVID-19, as the rest of the population.  Whilst people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin were more than three times likely to die. 


Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Metro Mayor, said: 


“Without doubt, the evidence we heard from families was the most harrowing and distressing that any of us have heard in public life. 


‘We heard about families holding back from seeking help because they were worried about the care they would receive. We heard about BAME workers on the front-line having to make their own PPE, or having to ‘pull strings’ to visit dying loved ones - and now a significant risk of ongoing trauma and mental health issues, because so many have lost loved ones, without the normal traditions of being able to say goodbye. 


‘We heard from front line medical staff who saw for themselves how the system was overwhelmed with little regard to communicating with the minority groups or understanding their specific needs. 


“The lack of personal protective equipment in the early stages led to many BAME staff being struck down themselves and passing Covid-19 onto their families.


‘Yet despite the perfect storm of health inequalities, the lack of PPE for the frontline, and underfunding of groups supporting those with long term health conditions, the most diverse West Midlands communities has suffered the biggest cuts to public health funding - and we still don’t have the ethnicity data we need on death certificates or testing results to be able to track risks in the future’. 


‘The government must now call an independent inquiry to learn this lessons - and I’ll presenting this report to the House of Commons to demand they get on with it’.  


The Task Force was led by the Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Metro Mayor, along with Councillor Paulette Hamilton (Birmingham City Council), Councillor Sandra Samuels (Wolverhampton City Council), Gurinder Singh Josan (NEC The Labour Party), Khalid Mahmood MP, Councillor Aftab Nawaz (Walsall Borough Council), Councillor Mohammed Yaseen Hussain (Sandwell Borough Council) and Taiwo Owatemi MP.


The West Midlands inquiry feeds into a wider review by Labour which is headed by Baroness Doreen Lawrence into the impact of Coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities makes numerous recommendations that need to be urgently looked at with the fear of a second wave looming.


Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who commended the work of the Task Force, saying: 


“The findings from this inquiry into Covid-19 related deaths in black, Asian and minority ethnic Covid-19 in the West Midlands is deeply worrying. The testimony of those that have lost loved ones are distressing and lessons need to be learned, so that further people from black, Asian and minority ethnic populations are not put at risk of dying.


“If we are going to effectively address the disproportionate impact of Covid-19, we must eradicate the systemic inequalities that it thrives on. My wider review for Labour will be taking this inquiry’s findings into account.


“I commend Liam Byrne and the co-chairs of this inquiry in collating, highlighting and raising matters which are of a grave importance to all of our communities, and I will take this work forward to ensure it gets all the attention it deserves.


“The Government will be held to account for its failings and we will not sit by idly, while lives remain at risk.”


Marsha de Cordova MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said:

“This report reinforces what we already know about the structural and racial inequalities which have led to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities across the UK so very hard, no less so in the West Midlands.


"Many Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers have been on the frontline throughout, as key workers, serving selflessly in the fight against coronavirus and to keep essential services running; they are saving lives and keeping our country going.


"The Government has had repeated warnings, repeated reports, repeated recommendations and yet has still consistently failed to act in a timely manner.


"I welcome this report and thank all in the team who worked so hard to gather these invaluable insights.”




Note to editors:

  • The full report from the West Midlands BAME Covid-19 Inquiry to be published on Monday 17 August.
  • For further information contact David Hallam 07939 378055.