Riz Ahmed reveals he has lost two family members to coronavirus

British actor Riz Ahmed reveals he’s lost two family members to Covid and says ethnic minorities at ‘bottom of the barrel’ are ‘hardest hit’ by pandemic

  • Riz Ahmed says crisis is ‘reflecting and revealing the faultlines in our society’
  • Wants surge in NHS appreciation to highlight prejudice against ethnic minorities
  • Actor says he hopes the deaths of his two relatives and others ‘aren’t for nothing’
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Riz Ahmed has said he has lost two family members to coronavirus, adding that the pandemic crisis is ‘reflecting and revealing the faultlines in our society’.

The Venom actor and rapper said he hopes the surge of appreciation for the NHS draws attention to prejudice against the ethnic minorities that keep it running.

Ahmed, who was born in London to a British Pakistani family, told GQ Hype: ‘I have lost two family members to Covid. I just want to believe their deaths and all the others aren’t for nothing. We gotta step up to re-imagine a better future.’

Riz Ahmed, pictured in Los Angeles in 2017, said he hopes the surge of appreciation for the NHS draws attention to prejudice against the ethnic minorities that keep it running

The 37-year-old added: ‘I’m seeing reports of India, where the government are calling it ‘corona-jihad’ and they’re trying to blame it on the spread of Muslims and they are segregating hospitals between Muslims and non-Muslims.

‘Trump is using it as an excuse to try to ban immigration and the Hungarian government is centralising power off the back of this.

‘I’m looking at the fact it’s hitting African-Americans twice as hard; I’m looking at the fact that 50 per cent of NHS frontline workers – is it 50 per cent? – are ethnic minorities.’ 

People from from black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds make up 44 per cent of NHS medical staff according to the most recent figures. 

NHS staff at the Royal Derby Hospital take part in the most recent Clap for Carers last Thursday

Referring to the viral video of poem Clap For Me Now, Ahmed compared it to his latest album, in which he symbolically broke up with Britain.

He said: ‘It’s almost like there is an alternate ending to The Long Goodbye! I’ve walked off, but Britney’s (a stand-in for Britain) called me back again. 

‘Britannia’s saying: ‘I need you! Come back!’ She’s saying: ‘We need you frontline staff. We need you Uber drivers. We need you shelf stackers.’

‘Who are the people who, for every moment of crisis in this country, have kept this country together?

A group of photographs shows some of the NHS workers who have died during the pandemic

‘It’s the people at the bottom of the barrel; the people being hit hardest by this pandemic.

‘We say we love the NHS more than the royal family, more than the Army, but do we love the people who keep the NHS alive?

‘Because every time we tell people to f*** off back to where they came from, that’s not what we’re saying.

‘So I really hope that this revelation, this awakening, opens our minds to that reality, to the stupidity of our prejudice.’ 

A woman wearing a face mask walking past a ‘Thank You’ to NHS staff and key workers banner on the Isle of Dogs in East London yesterday as the UK continues to be in lockdown

Nearly three-quarters of NHS staff who have died from coronavirus are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, prompting the Government to launch an investigation.

There are also reports that people from BAME backgrounds have been more likely to catch coronavirus.

But NHS figures show that 82 per cent of all those who have died were classed as being white, while 18 per cent were BAME or mixed background.

Both these figures are proportionate to the ethnic composition of Britain’s population in the last census.

Ahmed continued: ‘Coronavirus is on some level an alien invasion, isn’t it? It’s bringing humanity together against the common enemy.

‘So there is this potential for this momentous, unique-in-the-history-of-our-species moment, of us all going through this crazy challenge together and only being able to get through this together.

‘And yet, in the midst of that, insofar as any crisis is a mirror, reflecting your priorities and patterns, this crisis is reflecting and revealing the faultlines in our society, the broken records that are stuck in our head, the f***eries and the power plays that are still dominating how we are running our planet, the rising intolerance.’ 

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