By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Scientists are still racing to learn more about the coronavirus, but one trend of particular concern is its prevalence among people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME).
An expert panel is being established nationally in an attempt to come up with some answers as to why the number of infections and the number of fatalities appears to be worse among BME people.
The exact scale of the issue is difficult to measure, for a number of reasons.
According to NHS data published yesterday (Wednesday, April 29) for the UK, around 17 percent of those who died up to April 21 were BME.
This is higher than the national average, but even this is difficult to measure exactly, with the latest census being taken in 2011.
But although the exact picture is not yet clear, Nottingham City Council has put in place measures to help protect BME people in the city.
A lot of this has focussed around communication, and in a city as diverse as Nottingham this has brought challenges.
Educational material about Covid-19, and updates on the latest Government guidelines have been translated into dozens of languages, while an increased use of infographics has also been deployed to help get the message out.
Councillor Rebecca Langton is the city council’s head of communities, and represents the Bilborough ward for Labour.
She said: “This is something that concerns me, and it concerns all of us, and I don’t have any of the answers as to why it appears to be the case that our BAME communities are worse impacted and disproportionately represented in the death figures. But it is concerning.
“As a diverse city as we are in Nottingham, that therefore means that we’re seeing the national statistics reflected locally in terms of that disproportionate impact.
“We always try to work in a way that reflects our city, so that means we have well established good community links and networks, and we try to make sure our communications are accessible in normal times, but we’ve been doing that more than ever
“So we’re doing things like making sure we’ve got a comprehensive set of translated documents and videos in a range of different community languages, we’ve made them available in a pictorial way as well because we realise not everybody will be able to read and write in English or any other language.”
Pre-existing community groups have also been engaged, to help translate posters about how to get help into languages including Vietnamese, Albanian, and Kurdish.
Councillor Langton said: “We’ve been working through our well-established community networks, with community leaders and community radio stations to share key messages, and linking to our faith networks as well.
“We’ve also been mapping offers of help as well, and one of the things I’ve been really keen to do through this mobilisation of civil society is to say ‘this is not about the council responding alone, it’s about recognising that we have a really strong and vibrant network of communities that already exist.
“So working with our existing voluntary sector organisations and community groups to make sure the information in different languages is out there and accessible.
“We’ve already had about 200 offers of help and that includes people who speak lots of different languages who can help with befriending and things like that.
“So we’ve just been trying to make sure our communication reflects the diversity of our city because it’s more important than ever in these circumstances.”
Translations of what help is available are available here