Sir Keir Starmer has told the government to “stop the excuses” and publish its delayed review into the impact of COVID-19 on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The government had originally planned to publish the report by the end of May, following findings that people from BAME communities are more likely to suffer from coronavirus.
However, Sky News reported that the review is being put on hold until Wednesday because of fears its publication would coincide with widespread anger at the death in the US of African-American George Floyd.
White ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with murdering Floyd, 46, and is accused of pressing his knee against his neck for more than eight minutes.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied the BAME report had been delayed because of “global events”, insisting it will be published later this week.
But the Labour Party leader said the delay wasn’t acceptable.
Sir Keir tweeted on Tuesday: “BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“We need the findings of this review published and action taken now. Stop the excuses: publish the review.”
According to data published last month by the Office for National Statistics, black men and women are more than four times more likely to suffer a coronavirus-related death than white people.
The Public Health England review was launched last month and will examine how factors such as ethnicity can impact people's health outcomes from COVID-19.
BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 2, 2020
We need the findings of this review published and action taken now.
Stop the excuses: publish the review.https://t.co/Zwd7PNNhDk
Health secretary Matt Hancock said at the time: “We recognise 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.”
Shadow women’s and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “BAME communities need answers.
“It is unacceptable that this review should be delayed without a given date for its publication."
A DHSC spokesman told Sky News: "Ministers received initial findings today (Monday). They are being rapidly considered and a report will be published this week.
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"It is not true to say this has been delayed due to global events."
But de Cordova said: “There is a gross irony in delaying the release of a report into the unequal suffering of the BAME community on the basis of global events that relate to the suffering of black communities around the world.
"If anything, recent events make the release of this report all the more urgent.
"If the government is serious about tackling racial injustice, they should not be shying away from understanding into why these injustices exist."
The review will examine the health records of more than 1,000 people who tested positive for coronavirus.
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