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COVID-19 and the BAME Community in Tower Hamlets

Muhammad with his oldest child looking healthier
Muhammad with his oldest child looking healthier

After some delays the report from Public Health England was recently published which looked into how people from the BAME community may perhaps be more disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Many people up and down the country already had basic ideas that people from those communities tend to come from areas with high deprivation rates, urban inner cities, overcrowded housing and/or many working in low skilled jobs which allow for more interaction with people.

“After accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, it found that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity were at most risk, with 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.

The risk of mortality for people of Bangladeshi ethnicity was in line with other research, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), but for other ethnicities it was generally lower.”

The above excerpt from the report presents stark reading for around 39% of the borough who are from the Bangladeshi community who make up the majority of any one ethnicity in Tower Hamlets.

Unfortunately the report does not delve deep into the root causes or how to go about bringing the numbers down but does go onto mention some of the underlying health issues BAME people do suffer from which would only increase the risk of death of contracted COVID-19 as the below states:

“People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani background have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than people from white British ethnicity and people of black Caribbean and black African ethnicity have higher rates of hypertension compared with other ethnic groups. Further it references data from the National Diabetes Audit which suggests that type 2 diabetes prevalence is higher in people from BAME communities.”

As the type of work people do also increases risk, Tower Hamlets News spoke to one local resident who was taken seriously ill with the virus back in April.

Muhammad Rashid Humayon, a resident from Bow who is Bangladeshi and works as a Senior Bus Operator. He started feeling unwell with a general temperature and fever type symptoms, his wife and 3 young children quickly followed suit however while they all came through without needing urgent hospital intervention, it was not the same for Muhammad.

He deteriorated quickly and had to be put in ICU and on oxygen while luckily not having to be put on a ventilator.

Seen here outside Royal London Hospital with his oldest child looking healthier, Muhammad had this to say about the virus and the report:

“I really didn’t think much when I came down with a high temperature I thought I’m young, fit and healthy so will be fine however it quickly dawned on me when I couldn’t even take a full breath that something was wrong and just worried about my young family.

The report is worrying but not surprising people from BAME backgrounds nearly always live in congested areas and overcrowded homes. Our parents generation did not follow good diets and so they have many illnesses which do not help, however 2nd and 3rd generations are better with their life choices so hopefully things get better for us.” 

Written by Sheraz

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