۱۲ آذر ۱۳۹۹ | Dec 2, 2020
Exclusive: London Mayor wins EHCR approval for statutory inquiry into Covid-19 disparities

The Mayor of London has succeeded in convincing the Equalities watchdog to undertake a statutory investigation on the issue of Covid-19 disparities.

Hawzah News Agency (London - UK) - In a wide-ranging interview with The Muslim News Editor, Ahmed J Versi, Sadiq Khan also claimed credit for helping to persuade the Government to record ethnicity on death certificates for the first time.

“The Equalities’ and Human Rights Commission have agreed to my request for a statutory investigation,” Khan said, having repeatedly called on the Government to take urgent action to tackle stark inequalities that have led to a disproportionate impact of the virus on the lives of British people.

While waiting for the watchdog to report, which would take time, he said that a rapid review which he had commission had already “confirmed the disproportionate way this pandemic has affected our community people living in the British capital.”

“There are two things about this pandemic, it’s not great leveller. It’s both shining a spotlight on the inequalities but it’s also exacerbating them as well,” the Mayor said.

“As we enter phase two, I’m worried that the Government hasn’t learned the lessons from phase one. I’ve had a very recent report from Director of Public Health in London and he confirmed that in relation to the most recent increase in the virus a disproportionate number of Asian Londoners are catching the virus which confirms its disproportionate nature.”

“The Government needs to wake up to the structural and institutional racism that still exists in our country in 2020,” he warned.

For the past week and more, Khan has come under fiercest criticism from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has attempted to smear him for the alleged financial mismanagement of Transport for London (TfL) during the Covid crisis.

“The only reason TfL has financial challenges is because of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 90 per cent of passengers stopped using TfL which then we had lower fares,” he told The Muslim News.

“Before the pandemic I reduced the deficit of TfL and increased the cash balances, we were in a healthy position. I’m really worried the Government is punishing Londoners and by extension, unfortunately, Black Asian Minority Ethnic Londoners.”

The Mayor confirmed that the Government wanted him to extend the congestion charge up to the North Circular and South Circular, saying that it would mean an additional four million Londoners having to pay £15 a day from areas like Harrow, Brent, Lambeth and other parts of the city.

It would not only encompass where a large number of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) people live but also it is where a large number of small and medium size businesses operate, he said but insisted he would continue to fight to stop the Government imposing such conditions on Londoners.

Since the pandemic started, the Government has already imposed a first round of temporary funding that forced the congestion charge to increase to £15 per day seven days a week, to limit times for free travel for senior citizens on London Transport and increase the timings of the applicability of the congestion charge to 7 am to 10 pm,.

Khan said that this was at a time when Johnson “was advising people not to use public transport but travel by car whenever possible.”

The Mayor was scathing about the Government’s record in handling the pandemic, especially in its neglect to protect the disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities.

“The Government need to look at the evidence from Public Health England, the evidence from speaking to Black Asian Minority Ethnic families and the evidence that we’ve presented to them.”

“What’s quite clear is that if you are a Black Londoner you are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than a White man or woman, if you’re of Pakistani or Bengali origin you’re twice as likely to die than a white person. If you work in manual job, and many Black and Asian people work in manual jobs, you’re three times more likely to die than if you work in an office job or managerial job. If you’re Black Asian Minority Ethnic you’re more likely to have underlying health conditions due to poverty and deprivation but also more likely to be a key-worker or work in the NHS or in the care homes or be a bus driver.”

In contrast, the Mayor said his London authority was undertaking risk assessment in relation to our frontline staff and making sure bus garages, TfL, fire service, the police and GLA undertake risk assessments.

“Across the public sector we’re also taking risk assessments, it’s really important. We’re making sure that it’s enforced in relation to wearing facemasks, that’s really really important, on the public transport network antibacterial disinfectant and hand sanitizers.”

But he also emphasised how important it was what the Government did and doesn’t have a repeat of what happened in the first phase, so, care-workers need to have the right Personal Protective Equipment, the Government has got to sort out a test, trace, isolate system.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m disappointed the Government is failing to accept that there is institutional racism that is responsible partly for the disproportionate nature of what we’re seeing with Covid-19.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he referred to speaking out against China’s human right abuses against the Uyghurs Muslims in Xinjiang, saying he needed to “say quite unambiguously and clearly, the human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in China are utterly horrific and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

“I continue to ask our Government to challenge the Chinese Government in relation to this, both directly and through the United Nations,” the Mayor say also mentioning he had contacts with a number of different people in China.

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