Covid inquiry: According to campaigners, race should be at the center

Entrance Akinnola

Campaigners argue that race should be a major focus of the independent public inquiry into the pandemic in the UK.

Racism should be considered "as a key issue" at every stage of the Covid-19 inquiry, according to a letter to the chairwoman that BBC News has seen.

Official statistics show that Covid-19 significantly increased the risk of death for ethnic minorities.

According to a spokesperson for the inquiry, the work would focus on the pandemic's unequal effects.

People from ethnic minorities who lost family members as a result of the pandemic also expressed to BBC News how they felt "sidelined" by the procedure thus far.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice and the race equality think tank Runnymede coordinated the letter to Baroness Hallett, who is leading the inquiry. Ethnic minority communities are urged to be "firmly at the center" of the investigation.

There are 26 additional organizations that have signed it, including health organizations like the NHS BME Network and the Guys and St Thomas's Foundation in London as well as equality organizations like the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and the Ubele initiative.

Prior to a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, which will examine how the healthcare system contributed to the pandemic, the letter was sent.

In June, the investigation will start taking testimony. Prior to that, initial meetings are held to decide which topics should be covered in each section of the investigation.

According to the Covid inquiry, which is dedicated to examining inequalities, the pandemic's impact will be at the forefront of its investigations.

This pledge to examine injustices frequently falls short for those who have lost family members. They think ethnicity should be studied independently.

According to Lobby Akinnola, whose father Femi passed away alongside Covid in April 2020 at the age of 60, "there's no way [race] couldn't have" contributed to the death of his father.

He claimed that his father regularly went to the gym and was in good health overall.

Lobby Akinnola with his father, Femi
Femi, Lobby's father, was a regular gym goer who was 60 years old and had no underlying medical issues.

Lobby stated, "He was a black man in England.

"Racism permeates all facets of life. My dad is a prime example of why it's crucial to view this as a systemic and structural issue because he followed all the right procedures. ".

Femi was a "key worker" as a caregiver. People from minority ethnic communities were statistically more likely to be categorized as key workers at the time, particularly in jobs that required them to interact with the public and exposed them to the virus more frequently.

He was wearing his winter scarves and gloves as improvised PPE as he entered the workplace. There was nothing else this man could have done to attempt survival, according to Lobby.

The inquiry's barrister stated that it would be "an impossible task" to examine racism in the first part of the inquiry, which will examine how prepared the UK was for a pandemic, at a hearing on February 14.

According to the Covid inquiry, "two internationally renowned inequalities experts" were asked to contribute to the first module.

Because "we've seen first-hand the consequences" of racial inequality, Lobby wants the inquiry to hear tales like his father's.

It feels like race and the effect that race had on the pandemic, as a black man from a black family, too. just been put on hold. It seems more like an afterthought than a top concern for the investigation. ".

Rabinder Sherwood's parents
Rabinder Sherwood participated in the listening exercise to discuss the passing of her parents, who are depicted in the picture.

To gather people's experiences, the investigation has set up a listening exercise.

The listening exercise appears to be an "entirely separate process" from the main inquiry, according to the letter written to Lady Hallett.

Rabinder Sherwood participated in the exercise two weeks ago by completing an online survey. Her parents both passed away concurrently with Covid in January 2021.

The "brutal" questions on the form, according to her, included "When did your experience start?" and "When did your experience end?".

"That's it, an abrupt end - thank you, goodbye, and no signposting to any support you may need," she said after submitting it. ".

The Covid-19 Inquiry, when questioned about the listening exercise, told BBC News that it had hired experts in research and communications to "enable thousands of people across the UK to share their experiences with the pandemic.".

Jean Adamson
According to Jean Adamson, she feels "betrayed.".

According to Jean Adamson, whose father passed away in a nursing home during the initial wave of the pandemic, voices like hers have not yet been heard.

Lady Hallett, according to the speaker, "promised us that bereaved families would be front and center of the inquiry.".

"I sense betrayal because that isn't taking place. We are not being heard.

. "

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