England lockdown: Tory MP blames ethnic minorities and immigrants for new coronavirus outbreak

Jon Stone
·2-min read
People out shopping in Oldham, Greater Manchester, 30 July 2020: Martin Rickett/PA
People out shopping in Oldham, Greater Manchester, 30 July 2020: Martin Rickett/PA

A Conservative MP has blamed immigrants, Muslims and ethnic minorities for a new spike in coronavirus cases.

Craig Whittaker, MP for the Calder Valley, said the "vast majority" of people breaking social distancing rules were from the BAME community and that minorities were not taking the pandemic seriously.

His constituency is one of the areas across the North of England where the government has imposed new restrictions on household gatherings amid a surge in cases.

"If you look at the areas where we've seen rises and cases, the vast majority - but not by any stretch of the imagination all areas - it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough," he told LBC radio.

"I've been challenging our local leaders for three weeks, asking what we are doing to target these areas to let people know that this is a very serious problem. Until people take it seriously, we're not going to get rid of this pandemic."

Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, said the claims the MP had made were "simply not true".

"I speak to my local BAME community every day. We are all looking at packed beaches, mass football celebrations and excessive drinking on nights out with despair," she said.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge said Mr Whittaker's comments were "an entirely unsubstantiated claim".

"Tory MPs seem to be obsessed with passing the buck. Blaming Europe, care homes and now minority communities for this crisis," she said.

"Perhaps reflect upon the numerous and colossal mistakes made by this government before finger pointing!"

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock earlier this week suggested a second wave of the virus might becoming from Europe, though the UK has been the worst hit country by the pandemic on the continent.

Clarifying that he was referring to the "immigrant and Asian population" Mr Whittaker also told the radio station: "We have areas of high multiple occupancy - when you have multiple families living in one household. It doesn't specifically have to be in the Asian community, but that is the largest proportion.

"Look at the areas. You've got Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. Bradford and Kirklees have two of the largest populations in West Yorkshire."

The government's imposition of new social distancing measures came a day ahead of Eid, an important Muslim festival often marked by family gatherings. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday morning that the festival was not deliberately targeted.

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