Coronavirus: Government warned not to present safety measures as ‘white’ to protect BAME communities | UK News

Coronavirus: Government warned not to present safety measures as ‘white’ to protect BAME communities | UK News

Government scientific advisors suggested that BAME communities should be given reassuring messages to counter “perceptions of institutional racism”, according to new documents published today.

The document, from the scientific committee on behavioural science, known as SPI-B, includes a range of measures for public health messaging designed to reduce the impact of coronavirus on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

They include avoiding “fear-inducing messages” about COVID-19, which the scientists said “may result in denial or avoidance as a coping mechanism,” especially among people who were obliged to go out to work in a frontline job.

Another recommendation suggested including people from diverse groups in messaging to avoid the perception of safety measures as “a white, middle class characteristic”.

Statistical reviews show that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are dying from coronavirus more frequently than other groups, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying the difference is disproportionate.

It is not known exactly why this is the case. Suggested reasons include existing health inequalities, housing and occupation. A report from Public Health England (PHE) found that structural racism could also play a part.

The committee advised tailoring messages about coronavirus to “reflect socio-cultural influences and drivers of behaviour” and suggested that they would be more likely to be received if they came from “someone known and trusted within BAME communities”, such as faith groups, community leaders, shop workers and taxi drivers.

The committee also said that translation services were important, but stressed that it would not solve all problems, thanks to “vague terms that do not translate well into different languages”.

Words such as shielding and self-isolation were cited as examples.

NHS Test and Trace has been criticised for not providing translation services.

In June, one contract tracer told Sky News that the service was “English-only”, which was contributing to the spread of the virus.

They added: “Unless you happen to get a random match between a case or a contact and a non-English speaking call handler then you can’t proceed, and ultimately that opportunity is likely to be lost.”

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The government has since provided translation services to contact tracers, but has struggled to reach BAME communities in cities such as Leicester and Birmingham.

In August, Sandwell’s director of public health, Lisa McNally, told Sky News that she was setting up a local contact tracing system to deal with the national system’s inability to contact local communities

“As soon as a new case comes in now we’re not waiting for Test and Trace to fail to reach them, we’re phoning them the same day,” Ms McNally said.

“We will have a language speaker available for them, immediately – if we find out they only speak Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic etc – so we can first of all give the important messages that they need to know.

Documents from SPI-B are assessed by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

This document was presented on 22 July. It is not known what actions were taken as a result.

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