Reading our newspapers, one could get the impression that the virus is a fully paid-up EDL member and Tommy Robinson’s best friend.
It’s clearly biased against blacks and ethnic minorities (BME), this at a time when even telling an ethnic joke may lead to unemployment for life. To its credit, coronavirus doesn’t mock ethnic minorities. To its eternal shame, it kills them.
Just look at the statistics. Blacks and Asians make up a mere 13 per cent of the UK population (Tommy would take exception to the ‘mere’ part), and yet they are occupying a third of all Covid-19 intensive care beds. And the plight of medical personnel is even worse.
Two thirds of NHS staff killed by the virus come from BME groups. This isn’t something the Royal College of Physicians is going to take lying down, as it were. Thus spoke its spokesman: “This issue needs to be addressed urgently. Ethnicity should be considered a risk factor in the same way age is.”
The issue is indeed being addressed urgently. Some hospitals are moving BME medics from frontline to support duties, which may create a staffing problem. After all, depending on the area, BME nurses make up 20 to 40 per cent of the NHS total number.
At the same time Carol Cooper, Head of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights at Birmingham Community Hospital (one wonders how the hospital functioned when that post didn’t exist), complains that some BME nurses are deliberately “being taken from the wards that they usually work on and put on the Covid wards and they feel that there is a bias. Many of them are terrified.”
As well they should be. Yet Miss Cooper sounds as if it’s not just Covid but also the NHS that is so racist that it uses BME personnel for genocidal purposes.
But why are blacks and Asians so vulnerable? As with everything else about Covid, no one really knows.
Many genetic, social and cultural factors are mentioned as possible culprits, and I can’t claim sufficient expertise even to list them. Yet I do have some background in looking at statistical data, and that experience has made me sceptical, not to say cynical.
A case in point, if I may. If, as experts testify, blacks and Asians are especially vulnerable to Covid because they have a rogue protein in their lungs and also suffer from a higher incidence of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, then mortality statistics shouldn’t change much from one place to another.
Yet, according to the US National Center for Health Statistics, they do.
A report issued on 20 April shows that white Americans have a higher mortality rate (159 per million) than black Americans (132) and much higher than Asian Americans (62).
By far the highest mortality (373) was recorded in the OTHER group, mostly comprising people of mixed race. Apparently, black or Asian blood is at its most dangerous when served not neat but in cocktails.
I can’t explain this transatlantic disparity. All I can do is repeat the leitmotif ubiquitous in every possible medium, from tabloids to medical journals to government press releases: we haven’t a clue.
And one thing governments haven’t a clue about is the safest exit strategy. Yet one could hazard a guess on their plans, a temptation always hard to resist.
Apparently the governments of most Western countries, including Britain, have decided to follow a wait-and-see strategy that, depending on one’s disposition, one could describe as pragmatic, cynical or even dishonest.
They don’t want to take responsibility for lifting lockdowns too early and risking another spike in the pandemic. Nor do they want to cause an even deadlier damage to the economy by prolonging the lockdowns indefinitely.
Instead they seem to be relying on spontaneous public revolts flaring up everywhere. These can vary from rallies featuring firearms, as in several American states, to the more passive British response of getting out more, on foot or by car.
If coronavirus spikes as a result, the governments will tighten up the restrictions, while blaming people for their irresponsibility. If, on the other hand, the number of cases goes down, the governments will be able to step in, lift the restrictions and tout their own wisdom.
In other words, our politicians are acting in character, as they always do. Politics comes first, second and tenth. Human lives matter, but not nearly as much as the blame for their loss.
Oh well, seems like it’s not only statistics that I am sceptical, not to say cynical, about. Must be a character flaw.