Coronavirus: Black and Asian ethnic groups up to twice as likely to die with COVID-19, says Public Health England

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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, according to a Public Health England report.

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 said its findings confirm “the impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said coming from a non-white background was a “major risk factor” when it comes to the pandemic.

He welcomed the report and told the Commons: “Black lives matter – as do those of the poorest areas of our country, which have worse health outcomes.”

Mr Hancock said action was needed to “level up” the situation.

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

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Public Health England said there is evidence that when these are included “the difference in risk of death among hospitalised patients is greatly reduced”.

A person’s job was also not factored into the analysis, which the report said was an “important shortcoming”.

“Occupation is associated with risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and we know some key occupations have a high proportion of workers from BAME groups,” said the authors.

The report follows Sky News analysis at the peak of the pandemic which found nearly three quarters of all NHS and social care staff who died with coronavirus were from a BAME background.

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The relationship between ethnicity and health is “complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors”, said the report.

It said BAME groups were likely to be at increased risk of infection because they are more likely to live in urban areas, in crowded households, in deprived areas, and in jobs that expose them to higher risk.

It said they were also more likely to have been born abroad and therefore could experience cultural or language barriers in accessing services.

There is also a greater risk when people from BAME communities become infected.

“Some co-morbidities which increase the risk of poorer outcomes from COVID-19 are more common among certain ethnic groups,” said the report.

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It said people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, while black people have higher rates of hypertension.

“Data from the National Diabetes Audit suggests that type II diabetes prevalence is higher in people from BAME communities,” added the report’s authors.

Aside from ethnicity, the study found age was the largest disparity factor when it comes to risk and outcomes associated with COVID-19.

People over 80 were seventy times more likely to die than those under 40.

Risk of death was also higher in males than females, with working age males diagnosed with COVID-19 twice as likely to die.

Those living in urban and deprived areas also were at greater risk.

Death rates in London were more than three times higher than in the region with the lowest rates, the South West.

And the chance of dying with the disease in the most deprived areas was more than double than in the least deprived.

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