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A Magazine for Sheffield

Covid still affects Black and Brown communities disproportionately

As we gear up for another potential Covid surge, the stark social reality of unequal infection rates across communities continues.

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Mufid Majnun (Unsplash)

An expected increase in coronavirus infections after summer is taking place in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 1.1 million people tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending 26 September. That’s 1 in 50 people, a 25% increase in infections in just a week.

Covid infection survey ONS 14 Aug to 24 Sep 2022

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, 14 August to 24 September 2022.


The daily percentage of people testing positive in Yorkshire and the Humber is in line with the rest of the country. But what’s often missing in these discussions is a stark social reality – that communities of colour are disproportionately impacted by Covid.


As far back as December 2020, the ONS wrote that:

We can see death rates for most ethnic minorities are higher compared to White ethnic groups. After accounting for where people live and social and economic factors (including people’s jobs, education and housing conditions), the gap lessens but is still significant.

Ons dvc1011

Rate of death involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) by ethnic group and sex relative to the White population, England, 2 March to 28 July 2020


ONS data shows that a higher proportion of ethnic minorities have been dying of Covid in comparison to white groups. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have also found that Black and ethnic minority groups are more at risk of Covid. They have examined some of the reasons why:

Some evidence suggests ethnic minorities working in the same occupation as White ethnic groups experience greater COVID-19 risk…[T]hese social determinants of health are likely to be driven by broader issues of structural racism, namely the social forces which lead to inequalities between ethnic and racial groups.

Whilst there are some ‘co-morbidities’ that worsen the experience of Covid, SAGE identify that:

Other factors, including the appropriateness of public health messages for reaching all communities and the accessibility of health services, are likely to explain some of the greater burden among ethnic minorities. The evidence suggests genetics alone cannot explain the higher number of severe cases and deaths since ethnic minorities are very genetically diverse.

We already know that communities of colour are more likely to have less access to good food, housing, education and employment opportunities due to structural racism. We also know that medical racism and a lack of access to healthcare is an issue for people of colour. The pandemic has simply played out these social realities on a large scale.

Structural disenfranchisement in action

To shed some more light on this issue, I spoke to community activist Muna Taha, who works for the Hadfield Institute in Attercliffe. She said:

The COVID-19 pandemic had unveiled inequality in health, living, life and employment of BAMER communities. As we are born and living in the UK, we are already at a disadvantage in this current society.

Muna continues:

As a woman of colour working in the crossfire of my communities at that period where the virus was raging on our communities, I could see the imbalance of the scales in our society. If there was any balance, we would not have seen the scale of those losses, and pain.

The impact of Covid on our communities is very real. We already live in a country where racism is both endemic and systemic, so it figures that a worldwide pandemic would hit our communities hardest.

Muna also told me the reasons she believes our communities were so affected:

  • Housing and people in crowded homes did not help the situation

  • Ill health and poverty

  • Limited access to health - and the barriers to access were so high

  • Unemployment causes poverty

  • Many BAMER communities work as key workers - carers, nurses, doctors, etc.

About a third of the workforce are considered to be key workers. Within this, government data suggests that 14% of workers are BAME, even though they represent only 12% of workers overall.


There’s yet another enduring impact here. As Muna noted:

Our communities have not had the chance to grieve our losses - friends, families, workers we have known.

So many people across different types of communities have sorely grieved the pandemic, and grief takes many forms. The grief of structural racism is underwritten in the grief of a disproportionate impact of Covid on Black and brown people. Until the underlying structural causes of inequality are taken seriously, sadly this doesn't look likely to change any time soon.

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