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UK bishop calls on government to tackle disproportionate impact of COVID-19

By Katie Ascough - 08 May, 2020

Bishop Paul McAleenan

Public Health England (PHE) has announced it will conduct an inquiry into the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. According to The Guardian, the review will analyse how factors such as ethnicity, obesity and gender can affect people’s vulnerability to the coronavirus and is intended to provide “insight” into emerging evidence that the virus is having a disproportionate effect on different groups, following reports that deaths among BAME groups are disproportionately high. 

In response to the announcement of the PHE inquiry, Belfast-born Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster Bishop Paul McAleenan said: “While people from all backgrounds are suffering, the experiences of Catholic charities and clergy reflect a growing body of evidence that BAME and Gypsy, Roma, Travellers (GRT) communities are being harmed particularly by this pandemic.”

The auxiliary bishop continued to state that, while the inquiry is much needed and the Church will be engaging with it, the “inquiry alone is not enough”. He said the government needs to tackle what he calls the “known structural inequalities that have left some communities paying such a high price”. He also highlighted the need to recognise the “disproportionate sacrifice” made by those in front-line services who are of minority backgrounds.

“This health crisis presents our society with serious questions of racial justice,” the bishop continued. “Pope Francis has called on the Church to help tackle ‘intolerance, discrimination or exclusion that seriously undermine the dignity of those involved as well as their fundamental rights, including the very right to life’”. His words, Bishop McAleenan concluded, “are especially resonant amid the challenges we face today about racial discrimination in our society.”

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