After a 15-month long battle, the Government has finally released reports on the effect of Covid restrictions on minority groups. The results make for predictably grim reading.
Overall, they describe a catalogue of harms from March to June last year, which disproportionately affected the most vulnerable. The documents state that LGBT+ groups, women (including pregnant women), the poor, young and old, ethnic minorities, and disabled people have all been the most negatively affected by lockdowns and restrictions.
The analysis admits that “younger respondents were more likely to report that they are not coping as well as usual”, with particular emphasis on the impact school closures have had on poorer children:
LGBT+ youth are also considered to be at heightened risk:
The assessments (known as equality impact assessments) also consider the impact of lockdown on domestic violence victims, noting that “restrictions on movement and business closures present significant physical and mental risks to victims of domestic abuse”.
Incredibly, the Government tried to argue that disclosing these assessments was “against the public interest”, and had repeatedly evaded attempts to scrutinise the effects of some of the most intrusive and far-ranging laws ever created. It has since tried to justify the disproportionate effect on minorities by arguing that it is because they are at a “higher risk of infection and hospitalisation” from Covid.
But it is unclear how much the interventions actually did to protect them. The impact assessment itself says that blanket lockdowns may not be protecting minorities equally, stating “ethnic minorities may have a heightened risk of exposure to Covid-19 as they are thought to be over-represented in roles that continue to require face to face working”.
So it seems that BAME communities have taken the brunt of the harm from restrictions, while the greatest benefit has gone to others. This is also borne out in the PHE Covid health inequalities data, which shows a far higher rate of mortality for BAME groups than for white people throughout the Covid response, including during lockdown. The assessment glosses over these details, concluding with bizarre confidence that “if there is any differential impact, the public health reasons justify the approach, and there is no alternative way of dealing with the public health risks as effectively.”
It remains to be seen whether there was “no alternative” to such restrictions, which ended up having such a negative impact on the vulnerable. As the Covid restrictions were passed via emergency legislation, they were subjected to little parliamentary scrutiny. Perhaps the sheer amount of collateral damage that the government has since tried to hide serves as a reminder of the need to remember the impact of policies, first and foremost, on the most vulnerable.
Amy Jones is an anonymous medical doctor with a background in philosophy and bioethics. You can find her on Twitter at @skepticalzebra.