People from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus, BBC News reports a report by Public Health England says. It shows age remains the biggest risk factor, while being male is another. The impact of COVID-19 is also “disproportionate” for other Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities. But it remains unclear why. A trade union for doctors said the report was a “missed opportunity” for “action” to be taken to protect health workers who are from ethnic minorities.
The UK’s health secretary said the “troubling” report was “timely” because “right across the world people are angry about racial injustice”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons the public was “understandably angry about injustices” and that he felt a “deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation”.
Hancock said everyone in “the different high-risk categories” highlighted in the report should follow social distancing guidelines “very stringently”.
Professor John Newton said although the virus was having a worse impact on black and minority ethnic people, “that is not necessarily because of their ethnicity” and could instead be related to their job, for example. He said the report’s findings needed to be “widely discussed before deciding exactly what needs to be done”.
“The report if nothing else emphasises the complexity of what we’re seeing, so really we’re urging people not to jump to conclusions and institute measures which are not really justified by the data,” he added.
BBC News says the report acknowledges an important flaw in the analysis – it couldn’t factor in important risks, such as a person’s job and underlying health conditions, that increase the chance of dying with coronavirus. Where you live and how much you earn are important considerations too. Death rates for people living in the most deprived areas of England were more than double the least deprived areas.
The report says coronavirus has replicated and in some cases increased existing health inequalities. It doesn’t mention how to address those to save more lives. It acknowledges that more work is needed to understand and advise people about the risks.
The PHE report found people from black and Asian ethnic groups are up to twice as likely to die with COVID-19 than those from a white British background, reports Sky News. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity were found to have around twice the risk of death.
Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicities had between 10 and 50% greater risk of dying.
The highest diagnosis rate per 100,000 population was in black ethnic groups (486 in females and 649 in males) and the lowest in white ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males).
The report’s deaths analysis of people in BAME groups accounts for the effects of sex, age, deprivation and region. However, it does not include the effects of underlying health conditions and obesity.
Full BBC News report
Full Sky News report