A new research project will explore how inequalities and discrimination are worsening the direct and indirect impacts of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups throughout the UK.

The four projects are funded to a total of £4.5m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Professor Iyiola Solanke, at Leeds University’s School of Law, has been awarded a £2.5m grant to launch the Consortium on Practices for Wellbeing and Resilience in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Families and Communities (Co-POWeR).

In a statement, Professor Solanke said: “There are two viruses affecting people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities across the UK. One is COVID-19 and the other is discrimination. We want to illustrate that the way in which COVID-19 is exacerbating the experience of inequality for those in these communities.”

She added: “There is agency – people are able to adapt and support themselves – but the combined impact of COVID means that government intervention is essential to ensure the ongoing wellbeing of people of all ages who are subjected to these two viruses.”

The 18-month project will assess the combined impacts of the pandemic and discrimination on the wellbeing and resilience across these groups.

The new investment supplements previous UKRI funding streams to better understand Covid-19 and ethnicity, bringing the overall total to £8.8m of government research investment, according to a UKRI press release.

A research team from the University of Manchester will assess the pandemic’s impact on including health, housing, welfare, education, employment and policing (including the disproportionate issuing of fines).

Researchers from the University of Leeds will explore the twin impacts of racial discrimination and coronavirus on the wellbeing of black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities across all age groups.

Smaller research groups will focus on the impacts of the pandemic on Muslim communities in Birmingham, and the mental health impacts the pandemic is causing.

Amanda Solloway, Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, said: “COVID-19 has shone a light on the inequalities facing our society, with evidence showing that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are more severely impacted by this dreadful disease.

Not only does science and research offer us a way out of this pandemic, but it will also help us to understand why these disparities exist. These four government-backed research projects will work directly with BAME communities to provide crucial insight that will enable us to address these inequalities and continue protecting as many people as possible.”

Professor Bridget Byrne, who will lead the University of Manchester project, said: “The pandemic has brought the lethal impact of racial and ethnic discrimination into sharp focus. We know COVID-19 has caused more deaths among racial and ethnic minority communities, but it’s also urgent that we understand and take steps to mitigate the wider social and economic impacts.”

Tell MAMA welcomes this important new research and awaits its findings.