'Black lives matter': Matt Hancock acknowledges risk to BAME groups and promises swift response

The health secretary has promised to address the "major" risk minorities groups face from coronavirus after a review showed Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) people are up to twice as likely to die from Covid-19.

Matt Hancock, leading the government's daily coronavirus press conference, said he was "absolutely determined" to fix the problem, acknowledging race issues which are currently engulfing America.

He said the review by Public Health England was a "particularly timely publication, because right across the world, people are angry about racial injustice".

"I get that," he added, "Black lives matter."

He said equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch was working on a response which he hopes will "get to the bottom" of why BAME people are at higher risk and to "find ways of closing that gap".

The government has been criticised for not ordering any recommendations following the publishing of the review.

The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, told ITV News the lack of recommendations was "disappointing and wholly inadequate".

"This report doesn’t have a single recommendation and doesn’t have a single plan of action as to how it can prevent deaths and save lives, and in the context of this pandemic, it’s not only alarming its traumatic and suggests that BAME lives are not worth saving."

BAME group leaders have also expressed "upset" and "confusion" at the review, describing it to ITV News producer Roohi Hasan as a "lost opportunity for addressing the unfairness & disproportionality".

She was told by BAPIO, a BAME medical group in UK representing Indian doctors, said the review was "launched under a lot of fanfare.

"We had a lot of hopes that finally this disparity will be addressed.

"However the toothless report has turned out to be a damp squib. A lost opportunity for addressing the unfairness and disproportionality of BAME deaths. Another nail in the coffin for equality and transparency."

The review showed people of Bangladeshi ethnicity are around twice as likely to die of coronavirus compared to people of White British ethnicity.

People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity are between 10% and 50% more likely to die when compared with White people.

The health secretary, updating MPs on the review's findings in the Commons earlier, said it is "very clear" that some people are "significantly more vulnerable" than others.

Black men, for example, are at least three times more likely to catch Covid-19 than white men are.

He said the Government would act on the review, rather than wait for a further one on the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

He admitted there is "much more work to do to understand what's driving these disparities" and said the link between ethnicity and the occupations that people do “is an important part of this conundrum”.

“Putting in place risk assessments for people who are in high-risk occupations has been something that we’ve already been doing the work on,” he said.

But work was needed to discover what factors there were “over and above” the impact of being in frontline jobs and living in urban areas.

“It’s the wider co-determinants that we need to get to the bottom of, and that’s the work that – along with PHE – Kemi Badenoch will be leading in the next stage to make sure we we look as broadly as possible.”

Mr Hancock said he understood the “yearning” for a response “and we will put action in place as soon as we can”.

“We won’t wait for a report – I’ve got to talk to Kemi about a timeline for it… but I totally understand the urgency, the importance and the sensitivity of getting this right.”

At the press conference he thanked BAME NHS and social care workers.

"And I want to say it right across society too. I want to thank you. And I want you to know that our whole country cares about your wellbeing.

“And I value those who come to our country to work in the NHS and in social care.

“And I love that this country is one of the most welcoming and tolerant and diverse.”