Report: Black People, Racism & Human Rights – Covid 19

The latest report published by the House of Lords and the House of Commons   Joint Committee on Human Rights. This is the section on Covid-19 and the impact on the Black Community 


The impact of Covid-19 on the Black community has been disproportionately severe. According to research by Public Health England the highest rates of Covid-19 per 100,000 population were in people of Black ethnic groups (486 in females and 649 in males) and the lowest were in people of white ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males).  After accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Black Caribbean and other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to white British people. A survey carried out by the Runnymede Trust, published in June, found that 19% of people from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds know someone who has died of the virus.

Reflecting on these facts and the reasons behind them, Lord Woolley told us:

“When we look in this Human Rights Committee at the right to life, we have to pay particular focus to Covid-19 because our system, which still has deep-seated inequalities, has caused, I would say by default, many people to put their lives in danger. Many have died.

The reasons for the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black people are not yet fully understood; a range of factors need to be considered including socio-economic inequalities and the prevalence of underlying health conditions among some ethnic groups. Runnymede Trust’s survey suggested that

one of the main reasons BME groups are more at risk of dying of Covid-19 compared to white groups is that they have been over-exposed to the coronavirus.”

They explained some of the reasons for this as follows: “BME groups are more exposed because they are more likely to be working outside of their home, more likely to have jobs on the front line and less likely to be protected with adequate PPE, whilst more likely to be living in multi-generational housing and have much lower levels of pre-existing savings to buffet the economic impact of Covid-19.

The lessons learned review proposed in our recent report on the human rights impact of Covid-19 measures, and any subsequent public inquiry must prioritise consideration of why Black people have experienced higher mortality from the virus. For example, it should examine decisions taken about the allocation of PPE when it became known that those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were more at risk from the virus and look at how the employment and housing situations of Black people have made them more vulnerable.


This is an extract from the Eleventh Report  of session 2019-2021.

By Joy Sigaud