Lockdown approach ‘less effective in BAME communities’, warn scientists

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2 min read
A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus and a devliery worker walk past a piece of street art thanking key workers for their efforts during the pandemic in the centre of Leicester, central England on July 17, 2020, as local lockdown restrictions remain in force due to a spike in cases of the novel coronavirus in the city. - Boris Johnson said on July 17 he hoped Britain would "return to normality" by November despite being badly affected by the coronavirus and predictions of a second wave of cases during winter months. The prime minister announced fresh powers for councils to impose  local lockdowns, such as one currently in place in the English midlands city of Leicester, if there were increased number of cases elsewhere. The government on July 16 annouced a partially ease a two-week-old local lockdown in Leicester, after the number of new coronavirus cases had fallen, but remained well above the average for England which means restrictions on schools, early years childcare and non-essential retail stores will be relaxed from July 24, but that other measures impacting travel, social gatherings and the hospitality sector would remain. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Leicester was put back into lockdown due to a surge in coronavirus cases (Picture: Getty)

The “one size fits all” lockdown imposed in March may not have been as effective in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, scientists have said.

Coronavirus cases continued to rise in BAME groups in certain parts of Leicester in the three weeks after the announcement was made, while rates in white groups “dropped off very sharply”, according to a report from the University of Leicester.

The city was put back into lockdown after a rise in cases.

But the scientists said the findings, published recently in the journal EClinicalMedicine by The Lancet, raised “serious questions” on whether lockdown on its own is effective for a diverse population.

Dr Manish Pareek, an associate clinical professor in infectious diseases at the University of Leicester, said: “Obviously, lockdown has had a huge impact in reducing infection rates but the question is, is it enough for certain parts of the country?

“Lockdown as a whole is quite a blunt tool… perhaps what we should be thinking about is a more nuanced approach which allows people to work with local solutions.”

Members of the public sanitize their hands as they arrive at a Covid-19 testing centre in Spinney Hill Park in Leicester, where localised coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been in place since June 29, with non-essential shops ordered to close and people urged not to travel in or out of the area. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to decide whether to make changes to Leicester's lockdown after examining the latest coronavirus data. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
A COVID-19 testing centre in Spinney Hill Park in Leicester (Picture: Getty)

Dr Pareek and his team studied patients admitted to the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

They found the proportion of people from BAME groups who tested positive for coronavirus continued to rise for three weeks from 23 March, peaking at 50.9%, but the figure for people from white backgrounds remained between 24% and 26%.

Dr Pareek added: “Of course, we can’t be clear about cause and effect, I think, but if we were speculating, there are a number of factors which potentially could explain these findings.

“One would be that people who come from diverse ethnic groups work in front-facing roles and are not necessarily able to work from home.

“Secondly, they may be part of large, multi-generational households, which increases the risk of infection, and, thirdly, there may have been issues as to whether the public health messaging actually got through to those populations (due to language and cultural barriers).”

Gallowtree Gate in Leicester, where localised coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been in place since June 29, with non-essential shops ordered to close and people urged not to travel in or out of the area. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to decide whether to make changes to Leicester's lockdown after examining the latest coronavirus data. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
The lockdown was not a right for for BAME communities, according to a new study (Picture: Getty)

Dr Pareek said as recent research has shown severe COVID-19 disproportionately affects BAME communities, there is an “urgent need to confirm an association between ethnicity and acquiring COVID-19 infection”.

He said tailored public health messaging aimed at specific BAME groups, along with targeted programmes on testing and contact tracing, are needed in preparation for future waves.

Dr Pareek said: “At the moment, there is perhaps a one-size-fits-all approach.”

He added while there have been some targeted interventions in Leicester as the region experienced a fresh outbreak last month, these measures “should have been predicted in the first instance”.

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