BAME groups face two to three times higher risk of death from COVID-19

Risk of death from COVID-19 is two to three times higher for people from BAME groups compared with the general population, researchers have found.

People from BAME groups at greater risk from COVID-19 (Photo: Nopphon Pattanasri/Eye Em/Getty Images)
People from BAME groups at greater risk from COVID-19 (Photo: Nopphon Pattanasri/Eye Em/Getty Images)

Researchers from University College London (UCL) analysed data on more than 16,000 patients who died in hospitals in England between 1 March and 21 April and had tested positive for coronavirus - and warned their findings underscore the need for urgent government action to protect people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

After taking into account age and regional differences in BAME populations, the study published in Wellcome Open Research found that risk of death from COVID-19 for Black African groups was 3.24 times higher than the general population.

Among Pakistani groups, risk was 3.29 times higher - while Bangladeshi groups faced a 2.41 times higher risk, Black Caribbean groups 2.21 times higher and Indian groups a 1.7 times higher risk.

COVID-19 risk

For white populations in England, again after accounting for region and age, risk of death was 12% - 0.88 times - lower than risk for the general population.

Public Health England is set to report at the end of May on how ethnicity, gender and obesity affect COVID-19 risk, after the government accepted the need for an investigation into disproportionate deaths among people who are BAME.

Eight GPs have now lost their lives after testing positive for coronavirus - seven of whom were from BAME backgrounds, and the majority of NHS staff who have died from COVID-19 have been BAME.

The BMA has warned that older BAME doctors should avoid high-risk roles during the pandemic and practices have been advised by NHS England that all BAME staff should be risk assessed.

Risk factors

Co-author Dr Delan Devakumar, of the UCL Institute for Global Health, said: 'This work shows that mortality with COVID-19 is disproportionately higher in BAME groups. It is essential to tackle the underlying social and economic risk factors and barriers to healthcare that lead to these unjust deaths.'

Lead author Dr Rob Aldridge from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics said: 'Our analyses show that several minority ethnic groups have a substantially higher risk of death from COVID-19 and that regional differences in where they live may explain some, but not all, of the differences between ethnic groups.

'Our findings support an urgent need to take action to reduce the risk of death from COVID-19 for BAME groups. Actions to reduce these inequities include ensuring an adequate income for everyone so that low paid and zero-hours contract workers can afford to follow social distancing recommendations, reducing occupational risks such as ensuring adequate PPE, reducing barriers to accessing healthcare and providing culturally and linguistically appropriate public health communications.'

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