The government is facing pressure to publish recommendations to protect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people from Covid-19.
A leaked draft of a second report from Public Health England says that racism, stigma, occupational risk and social inequality may exacerbate the risk.
The report calls for the provision of adequate protective equipment and better risk assessments.
And it says recovery strategies must include action on reducing inequality.
Other recommendations include:
- Better data collection about ethnicity and religion, including having this recorded on death certificates to accurately monitor the impact on these communities
- Making it law for health risk assessments to be done for BAME workers and giving them better representation in the health service
- Culturally sensitive public health messaging so that people, particularly those who may not speak English as a first language, understand the advice on how to protect themselves
The draft report says questions remain on the role of diet and vitamin D and makes clear no work has been done to review this evidence yet.
A recent review confirmed the risk of death from Covid-19 higher for ethnic minorities. PHE found that people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at twice the rate of white Britons, while other black, Asian and minority ethnic groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.
On Thursday, a senior academic told the BBC that advice for the government on how to protect BAME communities from coronavirus had yet to be published.
Prof Raj Bhopal, a scientist who had been asked to peer-review the unpublished recommendations report, including contributions from 4,000 stakeholders, said Parliament had “not been told the full truth”.
On Saturday, the British Medical Association sent a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, asking why pages with recommendations to safeguard BAME communities had been “omitted” from the first report.
In a letter, the head of the doctors’ union, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, CBE, called for the recommendations to be published immediately, to tackle “the disturbing reality that the virus is causing disproportionate serious illness and deaths in the BAME community”.
In a letter to Matt Hancock, he wrote: “A clear response is needed as to why these pages and important recommendations were omitted from publication, especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities.”
Public Health England said the recommendations would be published next week at the same time that the work is submitted to ministers.
Meanwhile, ethnic minority doctors in the NHS have said they feel “let down” by delays in work to ensure they are protected from coronavirus.
The BMA said many had not received promised risk assessments and redeployment opportunities.
Hospital trusts and other health service bodies have been asked to prioritise risk assessments for BAME staff and other vulnerable groups. But BBC research has found that hundreds of doctors still have not had a risk assessment.