A Lewisham councillor has raised concerns that BAME people are under-represented in research concerning the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths affecting them. 

It emerged today that black people are more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. 

At an overview and scrutiny business panel meeting on Tuesday (May 5), Cllr Peter Bernards said that there is “a perception that the BAME community are not being involved in what affects them”, and asked who from the community would be included in the research into the statistics.  

The meeting involved the council’s chief executive and head of services presenting a report on the council’s strategy and approach to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Cllr Bernards said: “It has been widely reported that the BAME community has been more affected by coronavirus.” 

He added: “In Lewisham I would like to know […] if you’ll be considering taking a lot of information from the BAME community, and [which BAME people] will be representing the community, because there is a perception that the BAME community are not being involved in what affects them. 

“I don’t want this to go on after corona, decisions [are] being made about the BAME community, who are being affected disproportionately, and they have not been involved in fact finding,” he said.  

Chief executive Kim Wright said Cllr Bernards was “absolutely right” and that the figures were “very significant”.  

She said: “The information that we’re getting on the inequalities that are coming through are very significant and we need a national conversation about what they mean and what that indicates we need to do differently to respond to it.  

“I spoke today to Dr Kevin Fenton, who is the regional director of Public Health England (PHE), who is going to be responsible for PHE’s enquiry that they are now doing into this information.  

“I have asked to make sure that he talks to us where he can and he engages with us and our communities on that piece of work. 

“We’ve also today announced a joint research project with Birmingham City Council, with academic oversight from the university of Birmingham […] given the similarities of our population, around looking at the inequalities that people from BAME backgrounds are suffering from. 

“We’ve also submitted evidence to a parliamentary enquiry which is looking at how COVID-19 affects all people with protected characteristics so we are very much getting on the front foot as far as responding to this is concerned and we can give you further updates as we go forward.”