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British Jews are Dying from COVID-19 and the UK is Doing Nothing

In the United Kingdom, Jews are over four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the general public. 

More than 70 public figures in the UK have sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a public inquiry into the COVID-19 BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) fatality rate. 

Will that inquiry include Jews? 

BAME communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Despite being 13% of the total population, they make up 16% of total deaths, and 30% of the intensive care patients. 

On May 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at the daily Downing Street briefing: “We recognize that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away especially among care workers and those in the NHS (National Health Service).”

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 08: A billboard thank NHS staff in Stamford Hill on the evening of the Jewish holiday of Passover on April 8, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Early explanations found that BAME populations are more likely to live in urban areas such as London and Birmingham. Moreover, people of Indian descent are 150 percent more likely to work in health or social work and Bangladeshi men over 60 years of age are 60 percent more likely to have long-term health conditions than their White British counterparts. During the pandemic, Black African and Black Caribbean men are experiencing an economic standstill, and are 50 percent more likely to be employed in shutdown sectors of the workforce. 

However, these statistics also affect the Jewish community, and we’re being left out of the conversation — falling through the cracks of race — again. According to the Race Relations act, Jews are a protected ethnic minority in the UK, being classified as a BAME community. However, Jews are often mistaken for a solely religious, not ethnic, minority by the general public and corporations, such as the BBC (ּBritish Broadcasting Corporation). This was apparent when Savid Javid was hailed as the first BAME Home Secretary in the UK, when there had previously been Jewish Home Secretaries.

Despite being 0.3% of the total population, the latest reports state Jews make up 2.1% of COVID-19 fatalities. We are over four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the general public. 

Despite being 0.3% of the total population, the latest reports state Jews make up 2.1% of COVID-19 fatalities. We are over four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the general public. 

There are explanations similar to those of other BAME backgrounds. Three out of five Jews live in London, the epicenter of the pandemic. Twenty-one percent of Jews are aged 65 and above, compared to 16 percent of the general public. However, Jews are healthier than the general population and are less likely to be impacted economically than Black African and Black Caribbean people, as over a third are self-employed.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: A Jewish family stand on a doorstep during the annual Jewish holiday of Purim on March 10, 2020 in London, England. Purim is celebrated by Jewish communities around the world with parades and costume parties. Purim commemorates the defeat of Haman, the advisor to the Persian king, and his plot to massacre the Jewish people, 2,500 years ago, as recorded in the biblical book of Esther. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Studies such as “Evidence mounts on the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities” by The Lancet Respiratory Medicine and “Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others?” by the IFS (Institute of Fiscal Studies) Deaton Review, have neglected the British Jewish community as they fail to mention how we are contracting COVID-19 at the same rate or higher than other BAME communities. 

The higher fatality rate of Jews from COVID-19 is being ignored as we are categorized with the White British population, which will see our fatality rate increase.

The higher fatality rate of Jews from COVID-19 is being ignored as we are categorized with the White British population, which will see our fatality rate increase. Jews must be categorized with BAME communities in the potential incoming inquiry and in all following reports concerning COVID-19 fatality rates, otherwise, we will fall further behind, and not receive the same aid as BAME communities. 

The medical negligence from researchers, UK media organizations and the UK government, fail to accurately inform the wider British public and the Jewish community on the effects of COVID-19. 

This is a matter of life and death.

Eliyahu Lann is a British-Australian studying journalism in Melbourne, Australia.

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