Campaigners bemoan lack of translated virus advice

Campaigners have written to the Communities Secretary warning that a lack of translated coronavirus guidance is jeopardising the safety of non-English speakers in the UK.

The government said it has translated public health information into 25 languages, but campaigners say it is a ‘limited range of languages’ and the translations can take weeks to be updated when advice or rules change. The government has also been accused of showing ‘no engagement’ on the issue.

In March the government provided guidance on social distancing in 11 languages, including Welsh, Urdu, Arabic and Bengali. But this advice was withdrawn on 1 May as guidance changed, and the current social distancing guide for England - which is titled ‘staying alert and safe’ - has not been translated by the government.

Other current guidance that has not been translated by the government includes information on the NHS Test and Trace programme and the rules on wearing face coverings.

More than four million people in England and Wales do not consider English to be their main language, including more than 860,000 people who speak little or no English. Data shows that 88 languages other than English are spoken as a main language across England and Wales.

Now, 30 local authorities, groups of public health leaders and charities have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urging the government to produce and continue to update information in more languages.

Doctors of the World, which co-ordinated the letter, has said that it has translated coronavirus guidance into documents, audio guides and videos in more than 60 languages because the government ‘has completely forgotten and left out this patient group’ who are therefore ‘at increased risk of catching the virus, and are unable to protect themselves and their families’.