How has COVID-19 impacted the BAME community in Herts?

Public health registrar Kazim Beebeejaun, who co-authored the report on how COVID-19 has impacted the BAME community in Herts

Public health registrar Kazim Beebeejaun, who co-authored the report on how COVID-19 has impacted the BAME community in Herts - Credit: Herts County Council

A report has revealed how the COVID-19 pandemic has had the highest impact on the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community in Hertfordshire.

Members of the county’s public health and protection cabinet panel were presented with the report at its meeting on Thursday, February 11.

Written by public health registrar Kazim Beebeejaun, consultant in public health Claire Laurent and deputy director of public health David Conrad, the report stated the pandemic has exposed and emphasised the existing inequalities in society.

Deprivation, ethnicity, housing, income, age, sex and occupation have all been shown to have an impact on not only contracting the disease, but also having poorer outcomes. In particular, those from BAME communities have been the worst affected compared to those of white ethnicity.

The report stated there are 45 neighbourhoods in Hertfordshire ranked among the 30 per cent most deprived in the country. Nearly one in every five neighbourhoods in Broxbourne are in the most deprived 30 per cent in the country, followed by one in seven in Stevenage and one in 12 in Hertsmere.

Occupational risk has been shown to have played a key part in driving infection particularly during the first lockdown period. Jobs classed as critical which continued during lockdowns were often staffed by a higher proportion of those of a BAME background such as healthcare workers, taxi drivers and security guards.

The report also stated that those from a BAME communities have been shown to be more likely to live in densely populated areas with overcrowded housing environments. This makes household isolation much more challenging and increases the chance of intra-household transmission high.

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Those from BAME communities are more likely to live in a multigenerational house where grandparents, parents and children all live together. This may contribute to explaining higher death rates in BAME populations where vulnerable older adults or those in shielding categories may find it harder to isolate.

Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease which have been shown to be associated with higher mortality rates are all more prevalent in BAME communities.

Mr Beebeejaun said BAME communities make up one in eight of the population of Hertfordshire but made up one in five COVID-19 cases in 2020.

The incidence of the disease was around seven times higher in people from BAME communities than those of white ethnicity during 2020. 

Jim McManus, director of public health, said the report was a ‘spur to action’. He said: “I very much see this report as setting out an agenda of urgent work that must continue for the next 10 years to address the inequalities in health in our population.”

Councillor Nigel Quinton said: “My overriding conclusion from the report is we are not looking at a biological difference here, we are looking clearly at socio-economic deprivation issues which our BAME communities are more exposed to than the rest of us. And therefore we need to find a way of targeting resources more effectively.”