High Covid cases among Charedim due to ‘cultural factors’

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High Covid cases among Charedim due to ‘cultural factors’

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch clashed with Labour's Diane Abbott over high infection and death rates in strictly-orthodox communities

Kemi Badenoch and Diane Abbott
Kemi Badenoch and Diane Abbott

A government equalities minister said higher rates of Covid deaths in the Charedi community are due to “cultural factors”.

Kemi Badenoch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities, made her comments in response to Hackney MP Diane Abbott, who raised concerns over infections in Orthodox communities.

Abbott accused Badenoch of being “insistent” that disproportionate rates of infections and death amongst black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities has “nothing to do” with being from that background.

She said BAME groups are “more likely to be in overcrowded, poor housing conditions” which makes them vulnerable to Covid. “These things aren’t random, they’re to do with race and ethnicity”, she said.

Abbott pressed the Government to ensure ethnicity is included on death certificates, asking for information on the Charedi communities, noting they had experienced higher levels of Covid deaths in the US.

Badenoch responded, saying recording ethnicity data on death certificates is “not something that can be done overnight, it will probably require legislation”.

She added research from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimated 64 percent of the Orthodox Jewish community may have had Covid-19 in 2020.

“The researchers said the reasons behind this high rate of infection are not yet known. Strictly Orthodox families have significantly larger households than the UK average. They also live in areas of increased population density and, in pre-pandemic times, had regular attendance at communal events and gatherings.

“The reason why I use them as an example is that this is why it’s wrong for us to mix together lots of different groups.

“The Orthodox Jewish community has been more impacted than many of the ethnic minority groups that get a lot of the attention in the press, but we don’t say this is due to structural antisemitism.

“We look at what the underlying factors are. Multigenerational households, for instance, are not due to racism but often due to cultural factors.

This comes amid the latest report from the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit.

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