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COVID-19 cases at height of B.C.’s 3rd wave disproportionately affecting South Asian communities

April 30, 2021

For the past year, there have been anecdotal reports of COVID-19 disproportionately affecting South Asian communities in British Columbia, but the province hadn’t provided any data to contextualize the situation.

Now the government has given the number of cases on a neighbourhood level for one week at the height of the third wave — and it appears to underline those claims.

“It is consistent with what we have expected and anticipated,” said Dr. Birinder Narang, a physician and member of the South Asian COVID-19 Task Force.

There are eight community health services areas (CHSAs) where at least 25 per cent of people identify as South Asian in the 2016 census. All eight were in the 13 areas the province has scheduled mass AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine clinics due to high transmission.

Those eight hotspots are all in Fraser Valley South, and all have at least 35 per cent immigrant populations.

“While we didn’t have the data to inform that before, I think that this just adds to what we already knew,” said Narang.

“I think if we had that data earlier on in the pandemic, then there could have been resources targeted to these areas where we know there have been more people affected.”

‘More concerted effort’

In the second wave of the pandemic, cases surged between Delta and Abbotsford, and the province noted significant transmission was happening among people of South Asian descent.

But there was also criticism the province failed to provide enough communication in a multitude of South Asian languages, or acknowledge the economic and social reasons multi-generational households could increase spread.