Health
Failure to translate key Covid guidance could be costing lives

By David Forrest - Integrated Care Journal

In a joint letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, 30 local authorities, groups of public health leaders and charities have accused the Government of a lack of translated coronavirus guidance. This, they claim, is jeopardising the safety of non-English speakers in the UK.

Statistics released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) from 2015 show that one in 13 people in England and Wales have a main language other than English. There are 88 languages spoken in England and Wales other than English and Welsh.

Doctors of the World, which co-ordinated the letter, and a leading campaigner for translations for Covid-19 guidance, commented that current translations are of “limited range." In addition, Doctors of the World said that the translations can take weeks to be updated once advice or rules have changed.

One charity signatory accused the Government of showing "no engagement" with the issue so far.

A government spokesperson commented to BBC that it "wouldn't be feasible" to provide translations to all 88 languages but that the Government had translated some of its "key messages" around coronavirus into the most common languages spoken in the UK.

However, despite this claim, the most recent warning to the public has not been translated.

In March, the Government provided guidance on social distancing in 11 languages, including Welsh, Urdu, Arabic and Bengali. However, this advice was removed on 1 May in England and replaced with "staying alert and safe." However, this new advice has not been translated by the Government leaving eight per cent of the country unable to access and understand government guidance to keep themselves safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Ensuring public health information gets to everybody should have been the most basic, first thing in the government response. And 'everybody' includes people who don't speak English. ” Says Doctors of the World's Head of Policy and Advocacy, Anna Miller.


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