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Zimbabweans in the UK vulnerable to Covid-19, embassy warns

by Staff reporter
12 Jul 2020 at 10:33hrs | Views
The Zimbabwean embassy in London has told Sky News that at least 37 citizens of the southern African country have died in Britain during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is a revelation which underlines the damage Covid-19 has inflicted on immigrant communities in the UK.

Dr Brighton Chireka says urgent focus is needed to address the high proportion of Zimbabwean deaths

Officials said the vast majority of those who died were working in health and social care positions.

Qualified nurses and doctors from Zimbabwe have long been recruited to help relieve staff shortages in the UK, but the total number of Zimbabweans working in the health sector is small.

According to a study published by the House of Lords in January, Zimbabweans made up a tiny percentage (0.3%) of the total workforce of NHS England.

However, the number of deaths recorded by consular officials suggests that Zimbabweans may constitute well over 10% of all frontline workers who have died during the coronavirus crisis.

This startling disclosure suggests that Zimbabweans have proven particularly vulnerable in the UK and there is a team of researchers and medical experts now trying to grapple with the reasons why.

"This is something that we all need to focus on and we need to do it urgently," says Dr Brighton Chireka, a Zimbabwean GP who runs the Manor Clinic in Folkestone, Kent.

Dr Chireka founded the Zimbabwean Diaspora Health Alliance, an organisation that has been collecting evidence and allegations from thousands of Zimbabweans and other ethnic minority health workers during the epidemic.

The 46-year old physician says he has been disturbed by what he has found.

"There is a perception amongst Zimbabweans and other BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) health workers in Britain that they are treated less favourably than white staff members," he said.

"They frequently tell us that they are being targeted to work in the COVID wards, particularly those working for private agencies. We have been told that whites are more likely than blacks to be assigned ventilators in case of illness."

Dr Chireka says there is an urgent need to analyse and quantify these claims and points to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing, which found that BAME staff experience greater PPE shortages.

Less than half (43%) of respondents from a BAME background said they had enough eye and face protection, while 66% of white staff said they felt properly equipped.

Source - Sky News

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