Sir Keir Starmer has appointed Doreen Lawrence as race relations adviser to the Labour Party.
The campaigner and mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in a racist attack 27 years ago this week, has been with leading a review into the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
She will investigate why the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be disproportionately affecting people from BAME backgrounds.
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre suggests 34.5% of critically ill patients were from the BAME community.
This is despite 10.8% of the population being black or Asian, according to the 2011 census.
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A significant proportion of the more than 80 NHS workers who have died with coronavirus are from BAME backgrounds.
Labour peer Baroness Lawrence said: ‘I am proud to take up this role at a critical moment for our country. The coronavirus pandemic has brought society together, but it has also exposed the gulf in living standards that still blights our communities.
‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have long been disadvantaged by the social and economic injustice which still exists in our country. There is a clear and tragic pattern emerging of the pandemic’s impact on those communities which must be better understood.’
Her work began with discussion with Labour colleagues and experts including the British Medical Association’s chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul.
Muslim Council of Britain general secretary Harun Khan, the Sikh Network’s Jas Khatkar and Operation Black Vote founder Lord Woolley also took part.
Sir Keir said: ‘It is extremely concerning to see the disproportionate toll coronavirus is taking on our Bame communities. We cannot afford to treat this as an issue to investigate once the crisis is over. We must address it now.’
The NHS and Public Health England are also undertaking a review into the concerns.