These families cherished multi-generational living. But Covid-19 has wrecked it

The Akbar family, pictured in December 2016 at Asma Akbar's graduation ceremony. From left to right are Farah, Sehrish, Rabnawaz, Asma, Zaida and Zriath. Most of the family live together in Manchester.

London (CNN)Britain's health minister issued a stark warning to the country's young people in early September: "Don't kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on."

"You can pass it on before you've had any symptoms at all," Matt Hancock cautioned, in an interview with the BBC.
This advice made sense for those with elderly relatives living in separate households -- Covid-19 has killed a disproportionate number of those aged over 80 in England and Wales, according to the UK's Office of National Statistics.
    But more than 6% of British households -- a total of around 1.8 million people -- are multi-generational. In the UK, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are more likely than their White peers to be living in such groups.
    For all of these families, regardless of race, isolation is a luxury that is hard to come by.
    Rabnawaz Akbar lives in Manchester, with his wife, his 85-year-old mother and three of his daughters -- Salma, Asma and Farah -- who are aged 30, 28 and 17 respectively. The local politician has two more adult children: a son living in London and another daughter in Newcastle.
    Akbar told CNN that communities such as his own South Asian one often lived within multi-generational households for a range of reasons -- including faith, culture and affordability.
    "Certainly those from the Muslim faith and in South Asian [groups], there is this belief that you've got a duty to look after your older parents," he said.
    "Most of the taking care of older relatives is done by family -- it's beneficial to society but sadly during the Covid-19 crisis, that has become a negative," because of how the virus spreads among people living in multi-generational households, he said.
    Akbar said his own family has been forced to implement stringent routines to cope with the pandemic. His eldest daughter, Salma, is an optometrist.
    "She sees patients all day long. She comes home and has to be careful around my mum," Akbar said, explaining that Salma tries to minimize the risk of contamination by changing her clothes immediately on returning home.
    "I do know people who have had to isolate -- who have booked themselves into hotels," he said, but that is difficult too, "because it's so expensive to rent ... I'll be honest -- it's not been easy."