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Covid-19: Health Inequalities

Volume 675: debated on Tuesday 5 May 2020

What assessment he has made of the effect of health inequalities on the prevalence of covid-19 in the general population. (902209)

It is vital that we find out what groups are most at risk so that we can help protect them. That is why we have asked Public Health England to conduct a rapid review of the different factors that might influence how someone is affected by the virus. Among other things, it will explore age, ethnicity and gender. As our deputy chief medical officer outlined yesterday, this is important but complex work.

I am sure the Minister would want to join me in paying tribute to the staff at Croydon University Hospital and those in our local community for the resilience, bravery and good grace they have shown during this crisis. Over 250 people have died in Croydon, and we are all thinking of their families and their loved ones who will be suffering so much. High levels of deaths in Croydon appear to be down to the underlying health of the population. Although of course it is early days in terms of analysing the data, it is clear that in Croydon covid has disproportionately affected people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Does the Minister agree that on early sight it looks like poorer people, often from BAME backgrounds, are being hardest hit by covid, and that we need to tackle the longer-term underlying health issues that have got us to this place of gross inequality?

It is so important that we do the research before we draw conclusions. Every death is a tragedy. Everybody who has died during this pandemic is somebody’s mum, dad, brother, sister and therefore we owe it to them to give Public Health England and all those researching this area all the support we can, so that we do not rush to conclusions, but draw conclusions that will truly help us to address the pandemic and those who are most affected by it in the right way.

I am sorry that we did not get more questions in, but maybe we can speed up the teams next time and we will get through more.

We come to the urgent question to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I will follow the practice for substantive questions whereby I will call the Secretary of State to answer the question first. Before doing so, I have a short statement to make, which is relevant to this urgent question.

It has been widely reported that the Government will make a major announcement about the review of lockdown this Sunday. I consider this a matter of regret. It is important that the press is kept informed, but it is the duty of this House to hold the Government to account, not the media. Major Government announcements should be made first in the House, and that is more important than ever during this time of crisis.