by Amy Jones
Wednesday, 22
December 2021
Reaction
11:25

Government: lockdowns hurt minority groups most

A new report makes for grim reading
by Amy Jones
Credit: Getty

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:

Pupils who are eligible for free school meals may have more challenging home working environments which are less conducive to home learning and therefore may be more impacted by this “school closure policy”…There are mitigations in place to support learning at home, and schools are accessible to vulnerable children, but there is inequality of access to such resources.
- Gov.uk

LGBT+ youth are also considered to be at heightened risk:

There are concerns around young trans people who are isolated in homes with families who are not supportive of their trans status or gender identity, with implications for physical and mental health.
- Gov.uk

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.

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Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
4 months ago

I dislike this wishy-washy ‘government lockdowns hurt minorities the most.’ Why? Because minorities aren’t the only people who matter. What about an Englishman whose business went out? Or a young worker from Yorkshire, who got fired? They may not be minorities, but they certainly do matter. Do not fall into the trap of only caring about an issue when it hurts ‘minorities.’ More importantly, don’t elevate their suffering above others.

andrew harman
andrew harman
4 months ago

I kind of agree Madeleine but it is worth bearing in mind that those who have tended to be most shrill in their calls for lockdowns are often those who are more likely to shriek “racist” or “bigot” at the drop of a hat.

Last edited 4 months ago by andrew harman
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
4 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

You are right that it was the shrill voices of the opposition parties, Sage and the MSM that pushed Boris towards ever more severe forms of lockdown, which inevitably impacted a lot of people with “protected characteristics” and who were more inclined to report anxiety and depression.
I have no idea why there was any reluctance to publish this report as it contains no surprising revelations and basically accepts the idea that the restrictions were entirely justified. It mentions almost in passing that either 60% or 58% of the deaths were of men but as men are not a “protected class” this caused no particular hand wringing. It even accepted that the higher death rate of blacks was not evidence of any discrimination.
The report was generated under section 149 of the Equalities Act 2010. It is certainly no smoking gun that the government had it in for any minorities. A singularly anodyne report if you get past the tedious concentration on all the usual woke gripes.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago

Like they do with the “young trans people not supported by their families”. That is certainly going to be a game changer when looking at lockdowns…
(Edited)

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrea Re
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

What about them? Give an instance of a particular ‘harm’ that is qualitatively different from those suffered by others.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Sorry, that is what I meant.
I can see now that my comment can be misconstrued.

andrew harman
andrew harman
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I could see you were being ironic / sarcastic.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
4 months ago

Dear Madelaine,
This is about statistics and not individuals: individuals in all categories have been harmed by the covid measures, in total certainly far too many to justify many of the measures that were taken. (Possibly/likely also more deaths caused than have been avoided: it will take years before society will accept this)
It is just proportionally those at the bottom end of society have (in my personal view) been sacrificed for the sake of…… (each can complete here depending on their view)

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago

I am as anti-lockdown as anyone Madeleine but I agree with you that this is rubbish. Self-reporting is a meaningless way to assess anything. Being a victim is currently trendy among certain groups – particularly the young -whereas we middle-aged chaps make the best of things and hate to be considered victims. Thus we respond differently on questionnaires.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
4 months ago

Madeleine, I think you are missing the point here. The issue is that the biggest proponents of lockdowns are also those who also claim to care more about minorities. The implication being that if they really cared about minorities (and poor people) they wouldn’t be pushing for lockdowns over and over again. Hence, they really are just liars.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

This is just baffling to many of us. So hypocritical.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago

I think the article would have had more clout if it said that lockdowns hurt the poorest the most whomever they are – and this is true because they have the least financial buffer. Many of us have been calling this out since early on in the pandemic. This certainly does not mean that others have not been terribly affected – they have. Lockdowns are and always have been criminal.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

More tosh from “Anonymous Amy.” Excellent comment, lest we forget so-called “minorities aren’t the only people who matter.”
A second point: this is a government report. The government is not the only source of truth, unless one lives in New Zealand. I personally asked, Jacinda Ardern, and she said “Yes, trust only me [the government]. Disregard all the rest [or you will be arrested.]”
Does “Anonymous Amy” really need protection for this nonsense? It is not directly related to her supposed job as an NHS physician, where presumably she cowers in fear all day lest she be exposed.
UnHerd–no more anonymity–especially here when it is totally unnecessary.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
4 months ago

The negative impact of lockdowns can be been in every corner of society and every part of the economy; the list goes on & on. The ONLY group not affected are the elite, the governors, the wealthy. I hope we don’t ever see their like again.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
4 months ago

Trashing the economy affects those at the bottom of the pile most. Who’d have guessed?

But who’s going to want an article stating the obvious, so let’s make it about the obsessions of the day.

Pity, I usually enjoy Amy’s perspective from the front line.

David Slade
David Slade
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

This argument should hit home more with the lockdown loving left though, and I think that’s the point of raising it – it shows them how their hobby horse issues are impacted.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Another example of identity politics as a divide and conquer strategy distracting from the more obvious problems of class.
Just to clarify, I’m referring to the report.

Last edited 4 months ago by Andrew Dalton
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
4 months ago

Doesn’t anyone see the ‘lockdowns’ as mainly motivated by the belief that we are ‘at war’ with the virus (a strange war where we don’t know where the opponent is in space or time because it’s invisible, in which the opponent has no ‘strategy’ because it isn’t ‘alive’, has not declared its long-term intentions because it can’t talk etc. etc.).
Treating it as war of course enables the corollary that anyone who does not feel in accord with the measures taken is a ‘traitor’ or ‘fifth-columnist’ who is liable to want to ‘assist the enemy’. It’s no coincidence that Johnson sees himself as another ‘Churchill’ and the epidemiologists behave essentially as ‘miltary strategists’ called on for their analytical skills in forecasting the ‘mind’ of the ‘enemy’.
I agree that general society-wide measures are sensible, but the desire to stigmatise individuals is no part of a sensible approach, though it does reflect a mindset.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

“(a strange war where we don’t know where the opponent is in space or time because it’s invisible, in which the opponent has no ‘strategy’ because it isn’t ‘alive’, has not declared its long-term intentions because it can’t talk etc. etc.).”

Apparently, it’s because it hates our freedoms.

David Slade
David Slade
4 months ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

As has been pointed out by Toby Read in the Covid consensus; in a war you sacrifice your present for yours and your children’s future; we have sacrificed ours and our children’s future for the present.

You couldn’t fight a war like that; much less win one.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
4 months ago

No evidence, no numbers, just a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. If people were having a tough time, the pandemic just made it a whole lot tougher. Actually, it made life a whole lot tougher for the majority, but the better off had a bit more resilience. Our taxes pay people to write these ‘assessments’ because the dreadful Equalities Act demands it. We need equality before the law. We need equality of opportunity. We do not need and in any case cannot have equality of outcome. Does this author have any policy suggestions that make sense?

Frederick B
Frederick B
4 months ago

“It seems that BAME communities have taken the brunt of the harm from restrictions”.I have never yet seen infection and mortality rates in BAME communities compared with those suffered by white minorities (Poles etc.) who tend to live in the same areas as BAME people and do the same sort of public facing jobs. Is there a difference? If so, what does it say about the differences between white and non-white people?
Come to that, how about a comparison between different types of BAMEs – are Indians (prosperous, professional) affected to the same extent as Afro-Caribbeans (generally less prosperous, more manual)? If not, why not?