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PHE publishes review of disparities in risks and outcomes of Covid-19

02 June 2020

By Tim Le Couilliard, Newgate Public Affairs

Matt Hancock had a busy day today. First providing a statement in the House of Commons and this afternoon delivering the Downing Street statement, Hancock also had to respond to criticisms that the government had been mispresenting statistics, particularly over the testing numbers. Criticisms, voiced by Sir David Norgrove, Head of the UK Stats Authority watchdog, pointed out that the numbers announced by the government also included tests that had been sent to people’s homes, rather than just carried out by the NHS. This has led to data being analysed and presented to show the largest possible number of tests, ”even at the expense of understanding” which, Sir Norgrove states, “falls well short of expectations”.

On positives, Hancock was pleased to announce that England and Wales recorded the lowest numbers of weekly deaths in seven weeks. Sadly, however, there have been still 324 UK deaths recorded today, meaning a total of 39,369 deaths.

Public Health England published today its long-awaited report into BAME deaths resulting from the virus, finding that people from ethnic minorities are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those who are of white British ethnicity. Hancock today stated that the pandemic has exposed “huge disparities” between those of different backgrounds. Described as “troubling” by Hancock, the timing of the report was noted, as across the world there have been protests about racial injustices. Hancock took this as an opportunity to thank all those across the county, and especially in the NHS, equally, for their contribution to the national effort.

The report found age to be the biggest risk factor, followed by gender, living in a city, and ethnicity being a significant risk factor. Promising that the government effort, led by Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, will put “much more” into understanding what is driving these disparities, Hancock pledged that the government is “going to get to the bottom of this”, and find ways of closing this gap.

Elsewhere today, there were strange scenes in Parliament as MPs voted to no longer allow for virtual voting. The vote, carried out in a social distanced manner, saw queues of about 1km throughout the Parliamentary estate, with some MPs stating that it took up to 45 minutes per vote. Due to a three-line-whip, the motion passed, so this is something MPs will have to now get used to.