Immediate action must be taken to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on ethnic and racial minorities, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Tuesday.
Bachelet’s comments come as studies show that people of color and Indigenous communities are being impacted by the pandemic at alarming and disproportionate rates around the world.
“The appalling impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities is much discussed, but what is less clear is how much is being done to address it,” she said in the statement.
“Urgent steps need to be taken by states, such as prioritizing health monitoring and testing, increasing access to health care, and providing targeted information for these communities.”
In the US, the COVID-19 mortality rate for African Americans is more than double the death rate of any other ethnic or racial group in the country. This is largely due to social conditions and structural racism, including racial disparities in access to health care and employment.
Disproportionate impact of #COVID19 on racial & ethnic minorities needs to be urgently addressed – @mbachelet says the fight against this pandemic cannot be won if Governments refuse to acknowledge blatant inequalities: https://t.co/J7K4zluUkA#FightRacism#StandUp4HumanRightspic.twitter.com/Lgae3U5xYb— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 2, 2020
In São Paulo, Brazil, people of color are 62% more likely to die from the COVID-19 coronavirus. Disproportionately high mortality rates among people of color have also been reported in Seine Saint-Denis, France.
In her statement, Bachelet noted that the pandemic has highlighted and exposed other racial disparities around the world.
She specifically referred to the police brutality protests taking place across the US after the killing of George Floyd, and said the protests are exposing racial discrimination in health, education, and employment.
“This virus is exposing endemic inequalities that have too long been ignored,” she said.
“It is a tragedy that it took COVID-19 to expose what should have been obvious — that unequal access to health care, overcrowded housing, and pervasive discrimination make our societies less stable, secure, and prosperous.”