Fears over access to coronavirus guidance for non-English speakers

Covid guidance
Support us and go ad-free

Concerns have been raised about a government “blind spot” on translating coronavirus guidance for many non-English speakers in the UK.

Charity Doctors of the World said public health messages had only been translated into a limited number of languages and had not been promptly updated when guidance changed.

It has co-ordinated a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock and communities secretary Robert Jenrick calling for a stronger focus on helping “excluded people”, according to the BBC.

More than 4.2 million people – or 7.7% of the population in England and Wales – said that English or Welsh was not their main language, according to the March 2011 census.

Head of policy and advocacy Anna Miller told the broadcaster that attempting to draw attention to the “blind spot” was a struggle.

She said: “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.”

The charity’s website currently has NHS health advice and information translated into 60 languages, and created videos in 11 “priority languages” of Bengali, Bulgarian, English, Kurdish Sorani, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese.

The BBC reported that the resources from Doctors of the World had been downloaded around 60,000 times in the UK by organisations including police forces and those providing accommodation for asylum seekers.

Miller added: “It’s just been an absolute lack of communication, or refusal to communicate, from central government, that has meant we’ve had to get on and do (the translations) as if government doesn’t exist.”

The letter was sent on Monday evening and, according to the BBC, called for government to ensure the “quality and consistency” of public health messages.

It said: “As lockdown measures are eased and guidance changes regularly, it is not sustainable or practical for local authorities and civil society to meet this need.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us