London mayor Sadiq says Covid-19 deaths show inequality in UK, calls for action

LONDON: Concrete proposals are needed to address the structural inequalities that have led to the disproportionately high Covid-19 fatalities among ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom, said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

He made the remarks during a virtual interfaith Iftar hosted by the Naz Legacy Foundation on Wednesday.

A recent report has highlighted that the risk of contracting and dying of Covid-19 for British Pakistanis and British Black Africans is 2.5 times that of the white population.

“The coronavirus is not the great leveller. It affects some communities far more and worse than others. These [minority] communities have underlying inequalities in relation to overcrowded housing, living in poor areas, poor accommodations,” said Mr Khan, a British Pakistani whose parents migrated to the UK in the late 1960s.

“Their jobs take them to the front lines, not just as doctors and nurses but also bus drivers, at food shops and care homes. They also happen to suffer asthma, respiratory issues, heart disease and that is some of the reasons we have seen a massive number of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) citizens losing their lives.”

He said that some weeks ago, more than a third of those in ICUs across the UK were people belonging to ethnic minorities and that the country’s first 12 deaths of doctors were also among people of colour.

London mayor rules out congregational prayers for Eid

“Many of them were looking forward to Ramazan because they were Muslims.”

The mayor called for an investigation and said that inequalities needed to be addressed. “What we can’t afford to happen is [that this remains] just an exposition. We need concrete proposals.”

The virtual event opened an hour before sunset and ended at the Iftar time, with each participant breaking their fast with a date.

It was joined live by hundreds of people in the United Kingdom as well as overseas. Prominent BBC journalist Mishal Husain was the host of the Zoom meeting and invited participants to ask questions. Speakers included Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Chief Rabbi Ephreim Mirvis, Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly, Director of Islamic Relief UK Tufail Hussain and researcher Arzoo Ahmed.

Cardinal Nichols thanked the Muslims in England and Wales for adhering to distancing guidelines. “I salute the Muslim community for the way it has played its part, and for the discipline of staying away from mosques. As Catholics and Christians we know the cost of not being able to gather to pray.”

When asked if the Muslims would be able to celebrate Eid in mosques, the mayor said: “I don’t envisage the lockdown being lifted sufficiently to offer Eid prayers in congregation. Unless it’s with your family in your home you will not be able to embrace as you normally do after Eid [prayers]. There will be phasing, but we won’t be having gatherings in mosques, synagogues, temples for the foreseeable future.”

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2020

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