“Structural racism” is not a “reasonable explanation” for the COVID-19 death toll being higher among black and Asian people, a top government scientist has said.

Dr Raghib Ali’s comments come off the back of a Public Health England report which stated that racism may explain why more people of ethnicity were dying from coronavirus.

Instead, Dr Ali thinks it would be more helpful to focus on looking at other reasons why certain people are dying from the virus, such as jobs and housing.

Newly appointed in his post, he has advised the Government that his approach would help more people, including poorer white groups who may be living overcrowded living conditions.

However, a GP who has also worked in public health, does not agree and thinks ethnicity must not be dismissed.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Chris Udenze said: “I think the whole thing is very complicated. Ethnicity is not the only factor but it is definitely one of many factors.

“All the other factors such socioeconomic factors, diabetes, etc are important but even if you were able to take these away, there is still a disparity. Ethnicity is still a relevant factor and not paying attention to this will not help communities vulnerable to COVID.

“Similarly, structural racism may not be a reasonable explanation by itself but it is one of many factors that contributes to disparity and this has been backed up by many reports.”

In the community:

Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, told the BBC: “Quite often people expect there will be announcement that will be specifically just for ethnic minorities but actually the risk profile for vulnerability goes across many different groups.

“We have made sure all of the work we have done, all of the action taken to safeguard people’s lives have been done across the population as a whole, with a particular focus on the vulnerable.”

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