Measures to protect disproportionately affected groups as restrictions ease

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

Increased testing of groups disproportionately affected by coronavirus is among the measures the Government will take to ensure those worst-hit are protected as restrictions ease.

In its road map setting out how restrictions will be lifted, the Government said it will ensure the unequal impacts of Covid-19 are addressed.

Ethnic minority groups had disproportionately high Covid-19 death rates during the first wave of the pandemic, with continued high rates of mortality among Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the road map acknowledges.

Other disproportionately affected groups include disabled people, people with learning disabilities, workers in high-risk roles such as taxi drivers, social care workers, and people living in England’s most deprived areas.

Violent crime and drug offences are above pre-pandemic levels in deprived areas, while the lockdowns have taken their toll on the nation’s mental health and wellbeing – with anxiety and depression consistently above averages seen before the crisis.

The Government said increased testing will also be in place for employees of small businesses and those in higher-risk occupations.

It will provide local authorities with vaccine data so they can work to combat misinformation which is targeting some ethnic minority groups.

And it will also set out an action plan to respond to and mitigate the impacts on mental health across the population.

It will protect people in high-risk institutional settings such as prisons and immigration detention centres by expanding testing capacity in prisons, providing guidance in multiple languages for asylum seekers and introducing safety measures.

And there will be extra support for domestic abuse and safeguarding services, and to help students catch up with missed learning, while families with disabled children will be supported.

The Government said it is consulting medical professionals to develop and test new approaches to control the spread of the virus, with the hope of addressing the longer-term implications for disproportionately affected communities.

James Taylor, director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said the Prime Minister’s speech setting out the road map did not “explicitly address the impact for disabled people”.

He continued: “Two thirds of all those who’ve died from coronavirus were disabled. This harrowing data shows just why there is an urgent need for the Government to prioritise disabled people.

“Many disabled people have been shielding for almost a year now and are still struggling to get basics such as food and social care.

“The Government must deliver an emergency support package to protect disabled people’s health and finances.”

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