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Mattias Tesfaye in parliament back in February. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix
“I hope soon that we can get some data that can show whether there is an over-representation of citizens with a different ethnic background,” Mattias Tesfaye said in a live broadcast on the Facebook page of Denmark's B.T. tabloid.
The call came after the head of the Infectious diseases department at Hvidovre hospital in Copenhagen told the newspaper that Danes with foreign backgrounds were over-represented among coronavirus cases.
“When I look at who is [being treated] in our department, it seems as if there are more people with foreign ethnic backgrounds than usual. The picture is the same in the intensive care unit,” the doctor, Thomas Benfield, said.
Tesfaye, who has an Ethiopian father and Danish mother, helped front the Social Democrats' shift to the right on immigration in the run-up to last summer's general election, arguing that immigration had damaged social cohesion in Denmark and threatened the welfare state.
The authorities in Sweden and Norway have both released figures showing that people with an immigrant background are more likely to test positive for the coronavirus, something that has been explained by more crowded accommodation, and higher levels of intergenerational living.
According to a report from Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare, people with roots in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Somalia and several other Middle Eastern and African countries are over-represented among those infected.
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday that she would “consider” whether Denmark should calculate similar figures.
“I can see that in some countries there seems to be an over-representation of some minorities,” she told Radio4 on Tuesday. “It might be nice to have that uncovered for Denmark too.”
On Wednesday, Tesfaye called on Muslims to use video connections to join up with family and friends for Iftar, the daily meal traditionally held in groups after sundown during the month of fasting.
“You should just be with those you live with. And then try to be together with others using video connections or other digital aids,” he said.
He then pointed to the B.T. story. “Look at this newspaper front page. The doctor is sounding an alarm. They say too many immigrants are hospitalised with coronavirus. So we have to look out for each other,” he said.
He argued that he was not in any way singling Muslims out for special treatment, pointing out that Christians in Denmark had not been able to go to Church or hold Easter lunch as normal.
“The traditions were missing. The Muslim holiday will also be different. As it seems now, this year the big Eid party must also be held in smaller companies. You must not be more than ten people gathered together.
“Tonight your celebrations begin. Ramadan. It must not mean an explosion in the number of infected people.”