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As the impact of COVID-19 is felt around the world, it has become increasingly clear that disadvantaged and vulnerable populations have been affected the most.  Immigrant populations around the world are amongst the most vulnerable and in Australia temporary visa holders have been locked out of government support schemes. 

It is of great concern that some authorities are oblivious to the circumstances of many Australians including multicultural populations. Drive-through testing clinics, stocking up on two weeks’ food, internet-dependent services, following health directives and understanding how to navigate the safety nets are not within the reach of many of our clients at WWG.

The pandemic has also highlighted the inefficiencies, failings and biases of social and health systems around the world. In the UK in particular, shocking statistics showing that the death rate of British black Africans and British Pakistanis is more than twice that of British white people have been released and an inquiry will be made into this avoidable tragedy.

Internationally, there is a growing discourse about how the pandemic is exposing social inequalities and due to inadequate social protections those already vulnerable are at increased risk. The UN warns that the health emergency could become a humanitarian crisis and states “Longs-standing inequalities and unequal underlying determinants of health are leaving particular individuals and groups disproportionately impacted by the virus.”

Evidence from a number of countries appear to support this, including the UK and US where ethnic minorities have accounted for disproportionately high levels of positive COVID-19 tests and fatalities.

In Australia, we simply do not know who has been impacted disproportionately by COVID-19.  Federal and State Health Departments have not released any data on the demographic profile of those tested, infected, hospitalised, recovered and deceased. This must be urgently addressed and World Wellness Group will continue to work for better data collection and reporting that is inclusive of people born overseas and in Australia, from non-English speaking backgrounds for greater transparency and visibility.

Links to articles and data on COVID-19 and health equity for multicultural populations

The Lancet: Ethnicity and COVID-19: an urgent public health research priority

American Medical Association: Health equity in a pandemic

The King’s Fund (UK): Ethnic minority deaths and COVID-19: what are we to do?

Nature Medicine: Combating COVID-19: health equity matters

World Economic Forum: 6 ways to protect human rights during lockdown – according to the UN

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