By PROFESSOR DOMINIC HARRISON: director of public health, Blackburn with Darwen Council

FOR Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Pennine Lancashire, a single breach of the Covid-19 guidelines, now in place at our Alert Level Three, will carry a much higher risk than the national average of harming someone.

This is why.

Firstly, there are known structural risks which are affecting BAME communities at a higher rate. These are factors that make Covid transmission more likely, that are built into our infrastructure and demographics. Many BAME communities have lower incomes than the national average which is associated with higher rates of Covid. BAME populations are at twice at risk of Covid infections hospitalisation and mortality and have a higher proportion of overcrowded housing which makes household clusters of cases more likely. BAME communities have many more workers in front line key worker jobs, more exposed to the virus. In BAME communities, there are higher rates of long-term conditions including type two diabetes associated with higher risk of death from Covid-19 infection.

Secondly, it is already estimated that compliance with Covid self-isolation guidance may be now only around 20 per cent. Pennine Lancashire local authorities and BAME communities in particular, may have a much lower rate of the contacts of cases being traced by the national test and trace system. This means we will have many more people than the national average who are infectious but out and about passing it on. They will not know that they may be infectious and need to self-isolate. This risk rises exponentially as the numbers of cases rise and many BAME community areas in Pennine Lancashire have rates two or three times higher than the than the UK average.

Thirdly, the emerging international evidence on super-spreading is now showing just how these existing risks may be amplified even further, with risks of a single Covid positive person who is not socially distancing infecting a very large numbers of others in a single event.

The Atlantic Website reports in a recent paper that 'about 19 percent of cases were responsible for 80 percent of transmission, while 69 percent of cases did not infect another person'. Super-spreader events are being increasingly reported in international case studies.

Breaching the Covid-19 social mixing guidelines is a risk to us all whatever our ethnicity. Everyone now needs to adhere to the Alert Level Three guidelines. However for BAME communities, whilst it is certainly unfair because many of the risks identified are largely beyond the scope of individuals to change, the fact is - these risks are multiply higher.

Taken together these risks mean that a single breach of local guidelines on social distancing , perhaps an indoors social gathering with multiple families present, presents a level of risk to BAME communities that is now gravely higher than the national average.

For all of us, but for BAME communities in particular, breaching the Covid-19 guidelines is playing Russian Roulette with the lives of those we love the most.