UK: Muslims disproportionately hit by Covid infection by Eat Out to Help Out scheme
By Hamed Chapman
London, (The Muslim News): The Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, designed to kick start the hospitality industry during last year’s second wave lockdown, was responsible for a huge rise in deaths due to Covid-19 disease among the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, according to a leading biomedical scientist.
Professor Parvez Haris of De Montfort University in Leicester said the initiative, launched by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, created the “ideal environment” for exposure to Covid in communities with the highest proportion of people working in the restaurant sector.
A damning report by the Institute for Government (IfG) found that Sunak did not bother to consult scientific experts before launching his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme last Summer that led to a dramatic spike in case shortly afterwards.
The generous 50 per cent discount paid for by taxpayers scheme, which provided cheaper meals to people visiting restaurants, but was called “epidemiologically illiterate” by experts interviewed by the IfG.
Haris said it was a “recipe for disaster, especially for the Bangladeshi & Pakistani communities who have the highest percentage of people working in the sector and also suffer disproportionately from underlying health conditions and overcrowding at home.”
“The fact they are the only ethnic groups who saw an increase in deaths during the second wave is not surprising and neither is it rocket science,” said the Professor who presented his findings to global health experts at the International Festival of Public Health in Manchester this month.
According to the Office of National Statistics data, all ethnicities showed a decrease in mortality in the second wave, compared to the first wave, apart from Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. This included 165% death rate increase for Bangladeshi men and over 200% for Bangladeshi women and dramatic increase by 124% and 97% for men and women from Pakistani ethnicity, respectively.
Ethnic Bangladeshis & Pakistanis have the highest percentage of self-employed people of any ethnicity, many owning small restaurants and fast-food outlets, where ventilation is often very poor.
The Professor expressed concern about the current lifting of restrictions in England which he said could see these ethnic groups hit again without further protections for small businesses.
“Covid-19 is an occupational disease, that became clearly evident in the UK through the differences in mortality rates among ethnic groups in the second wave, with dramatic increases in groups working mainly in the hospitality sector during the Eat out to Help Out scheme,” he said.
Bangladeshi and Pakistanis also are at risk having the highest percentage of people – 17.8% – working in the transport and communication sector, such as taxi or mini-cab drivers. The Bangladeshi population is also seen having the highest incidence of diabetes in the UK.
[Photo: Professor Parvez Haris. Photo courtesy Professor Haris]
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