A BRADFORD doctor has spoken of the impact of the local lockdown restrictions amid fears of division, mistrust and the spread of fake news.
Consultant anaesthetist Fozia Hayat recorded ‘My City in Lockdown’ for BBC Radio 4.
Like many others in the Muslim community, she was left disheartened at the eleventh-hour announcement of local Covid-19 restrictions just hours before Eid celebrations were due to begin.
She said: “It has been a hard year for everyone. We were preparing to get ready for Eid, wrapping presents, putting food in the oven, preparing to see family members that we probably haven’t seen for months on end.
“You find out you can’t go. Restrictions have been put back in place in Bradford.
“Like thousands of other people in the community, we were disappointed by the Government’s decision to stop the celebrations from going ahead.
“A lot of the people in the community don’t understand why there’s restrictions, there’s been lots of misinformation out there, there’s been lots of fake news and lots of mistrust.”
Comments made in the wake of the announcement added further upset.
Speaking to LBC radio, Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for the Calder Valley, said: “If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority, but not by any stretch of the imagination all areas, it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.”
Fozia branded such comments as “really, really dangerous”.
She said: “That kind of dialogue is just going to cause more division and it just adds fuel to the fire of people’s suspicion of what’s going on and they feel targeted and alienated.”
Professor John Wright, Fozia’s colleague and a major Bradford voice throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, said: “I think the restrictions are right. The timing was wrong, it was the night before Eid. I think you could have seen this coming in the days leading up to Eid.”
One woman Fozia spoke to said she felt people don’t understand the issues inner-city areas face.
She said: “It’s a really narrow view of just accusing people in inner-city areas, rather than looking at why in the first place. A lot of those comments sometimes come from people from outside, in more rural areas, that don’t understand issues within sort of places like Bradford. You get a lot of criticism sometimes.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has created fertile ground for fake news stories to take root.
Fozia questioned why “so many people across the city seem so sceptical of Government advice and unwilling to follow it”. She said: “You can see it in the shops and even on the streets.”
In the programme, she approached a gathering of Eastern European youngsters, who said they don’t believe in coronavirus. “There’s a real mistrust in the community and I think there’s an important role here for our former Covid patients,”Fozia said.
“They’ve seen first-hand the illness and they can help combat the fake news and complacency.”
Mohammed Hussain, 51, was left fighting for his life after catching Covid-19.
He said people need to understand it’s not just about them.
“You might not get anything, but you might pass it on to someone who you love, who it’s going to have a catastrophic affect on,” he said.
Mohammed thinks he caught the virus at his father’s funeral, just before lockdown.
Fozia said: “In my experience, weddings and funerals are a big part of the South Asian culture. Large gatherings like that are now banned and even the national relaxation to allow weddings of up to 30 guests don’t apply in Bradford. It’s a restriction that’s causing a lot of distress and it seems to be pushing a lot of gatherings underground.
“Even today, someone told me they had been to a secret wedding.”
She spoke to one man who admitted his son’s wedding was held in the garden, with a marquee, on August 7.
Fozia added: “Couples have a lot of pressure on them, both from families and from each other.
“That seems to be driving the wedding business underground, with weddings being held in restaurants and gardens. Recently just behind my house, there was a huge wedding, there was lots of music, fireworks, probably up to 40/50 guests there.”