ON April 1, in the pages of this newspaper, I wrote about Habib Zaidi, Adil El Tayar and Amged El-Harwani, the first three doctors to die in this country as a result of Covid-19. In that column, which noted their bravery and service, as well as the opprobrium often faced by non-white immigrants to the UK, I noted that “the fact that all three of the first doctors to have died from Covid-19 were all immigrants to this country is of course a random coincidence.” As it turns out I was quite wrong.

Just over a week later – by April 9 – a trend had developed. The first ten doctors in the UK who had died from the virus were all from BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds whilst 50 per cent of the nurses who had died were non-white.

At first questions focused on statistical links, noting the over-representation of BAME staff in the NHS, where they comprise 44 per cent of medical staff compared, whilst only constituting 13 per cent of the population of England and Wales. Independent research into those being admitted into intensive care created an even more worrying picture. On April 10, the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found of the first 5,000 Covid-19 patients, 35 per cent of those in critical care were from an ethnic minority.

On April 18, at the Government’s daily press briefing, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick conceded that “there does appear to be a disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities in the UK” as he confirmed that the number of BAME patients who were critically ill with Covid-19 remained at 35 per cent and of the 51 healthcare workers to have died, 75 per cent were from BAME backgrounds. On the same day the chief medical officer commissioned work to further understand the issue.

Yet whilst this work has been commissioned, and a panel of experts appointed, there is no timeline as to when it will report. Whilst that work continues people continue to die. On Monday of this week Manjeet Singh Ryat, the UK’s first Sikh A&E consultant, died aged 52 at the Royal Derby Hospital where he worked. As of Monday, every one of the 15 NHS doctors reported to have died from Covid-19 so far is from an ethnic minority. Two thirds of all medical staff who have died are from an ethnic minority. One third of all of those in critical care are from an ethnic minority.

It has been said of the coronavirus that it does not discriminate and everyone from hospital porter to prime ministers are susceptible. But the backgrounds and ethnicities of those NHS staff who are dying suggests something else. We do not yet know if this is true of the population as a whole. The main reason for this is that the Government has not instructed hospitals to record the ethnicity of those who have died, a situation which the chair of the British Medical Association described as a “scandal which is endangering lives” and “morally wrong”.

The time has come to end that scandal and to start to protect all of those who work in the NHS and to save all lives and not just some.

lArun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham