Flat White

The truth about ethnic communities and coronavirus

29 June 2020

2:33 PM

29 June 2020

2:33 PM

Just as the epidemic shines a mirror on a host of issues, it has also raised questions about our multiculturalism.  

The recent spike in Victorian cases has been linked to Islamic Eid celebrations in late May.  

While political correctness demands a bit of hush-hush, there have been veiled references to large households.  

It has been suggested that this was evidence of the failures of diversity, a marker that we were a bunch of tribes without a common story.  

Maybe, but Im not so sure. 

Lets take a moment to consider how this is playing out internationally. 

In the United States, Blacks were almost four times as likely to die from the virus. Latinos close to double. 

In Britain, similar figures of Blacks about three times as likely to die and South Asians about double. 

Key reasons include that ethnic groups are more likely to be doing essential work — be it in the supermarkets, the public transport drivers and attendants, cleaners and so on.  

They are also more likely to be living in multi-generational households where its harder to do social distancing and there is more contact between the elderly and the young. 

The other biological reason is that, unfortunately, ethnic groups have higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, both known to increase death rates. 

But back to Victoria… The reality is that Sydney is even more multicultural but hasn’t seen the same spike. 

It’s a bit like African gangs. Sydney has a bigger Sudanese population but none of the same issues that Melbourne did.  

Public health authorities have been quick to suggest that this was just dumb luck. It could have happened anywhere.  

But the double standard in Victoria of the tightest lockdown with easing for Black Lives Matters protests casts doubts. 

The epidemic does call for greater collectivism, a stronger sense of mutual obligation.  

This should suit more traditional ethnic groups, but the obligation must extend beyond immediate family and clan to the wider community.  

I think all groups have been very compliant. Overall weve done a great job. Its understandable if some of us are getting restless.  

But ethnic groups do have some specific vulnerabilities and perhaps need stronger, focused messaging.  

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