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Muslims disproportionately hit by Covid infection by Eat Out to Help Out scheme

27th Aug 2021
Muslims disproportionately hit by Covid infection  by Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Professor Parvez Haris. (Courtesy of Professor Haris)

Hamed Chapman

The Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, designed to kick start the hospitality industry during last year’s second wave lockdown, was responsible for a huge rise in deaths due to Covid-19 disease among the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, according to a leading biomedical scientist.

Professor Parvez Haris of De Montfort University in Leicester said the initiative, launched by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, created the “ideal environment” for exposure to Covid in communities with the highest proportion of people working in the restaurant sector. “Sunak being an Asian and having worked in a curry house in

Southampton should have understood that small businesses did not have good ventilation, health and safety officers, they suffered from diabetes and other co-morbidities,” Haris said.

“It didn’t need rocket science to predict that this was going to increase in transmission of the virus and ultimately death,” the Professor told The Muslim News.

A damning report by the Institute for Government (IfG) found that Sunak did not bother to consult scientific experts before launching his ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme last Summer that led to a dramatic spike in Covid-19 cases shortly afterwards. The generous 50% discount paid for by taxpayers scheme, which provided cheaper meals to people visiting restaurants but was called “epidemiologically illiterate” by experts interviewed by the IfG.

Haris said he believed that the Chancellor “had good intentions, however, what he should have done is to prevent this happening. He should have given more thought to this and consulted Sage.” It was a “recipe for disaster, especially for the Bangladeshi & Pakistani communities who have the highest percentage of people working in the sector and also suffer disproportionately from underlying health conditions and overcrowding at home,” he said.

“The fact they are the only ethnic groups who saw an increase in deaths during the second wave is not surprising and neither is it rocket science,” said the Professor who presented his findings to global health experts at the International Festival of Public Health in Manchester last month.

According to the Office of National Statistics data, all ethnicities showed a decrease in mortality in the second wave, compared to the first wave, apart from Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

This included 165 per cent death rate increase for Bangladeshi men and over 200 per cent for Bangladeshi women and a dramatic increase by 124 per cent and 97 per cent for men and women of Pakistani ethnicity, respectively.
Ethnic Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have the highest percentage of self-employed people of any ethnicity, many owning small restaurants and fast-food outlets where ventilation is often very poor.

The Professor expressed concern that the lifting of restrictions in England could see these ethnic groups hit again without further protections for small businesses.

“Covid-19 is an occupational disease that became clearly evident in the UK through the differences in mortality rates among ethnic groups in the second wave, with dramatic increases in groups working mainly in the hospitality sector during the Eat out to Help Out scheme,” he said.

Harris is asking the Government to give financial support to these smaller businesses. “I recommend the Government to provide grants made available to small businesses to upgrade ventilation in restaurant kitchens. This will not only protect them from Covid-19 infections and health overall it will also eliminate toxic fumes generated when they are cooking,” he said.

Bangladeshi and Pakistanis are also at risk, having the highest percentage of people – 17.8 per cent – working in the transport and communication sector, such as taxi or mini-cab drivers. The Bangladeshi population is also seen having the highest incidence of diabetes in the UK.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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