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UK study finds higher risk of virus deaths for ethnic minorities

By Agence France-Presse

The risk of dying from coronavirus is two to three times higher for England’s black and minority ethnic communities, according to an academic analysis of health service data reported Thursday.

The study, by University College London (UCL), is the latest to suggest that the COVID-19 illness hits ethnic minorities in Britain and other Western countries disproportionately hard.

UCL researchers mined data from the state-run National Health Service (NHS) of patients who had tested positive for the virus and died in hospitals in England from March 1 to April 21.

They found the average risk of death was “around two to three times higher” for black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups when compared to the general population.

The risk of death for people of Pakistani heritage was 3.29 times higher, for a black African background it was 3.24 times higher and 2.41 times higher for Bangladeshi.

Black Caribbean communities were 2.21 times more at risk, and Indian groups 1.7 times.

In contrast the researchers, who analysed 16,272 deaths from the virus in the study period — though ethnicity was missing in nearly 10 percent of cases — discovered a lower fatality risk for white populations in England.

“Rather than being an equaliser, this work shows that mortality with COVID-19 is disproportionately higher in black, Asian and minority ethnic groups,” said UCL’s Delan Devakumar, the study’s co-author.

“It is essential to tackle the underlying social and economic risk factors and barriers to healthcare that lead to these unjust deaths.”

The analysis, which is awaiting peer review, follows other recent British studies showing people in disadvantaged areas — typically more heavily populated by ethnic minorities — had been worse hit by the virus.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found the COVID-19 mortality rate in the most disadvantaged areas of England was 118 percent higher than in more well-off locations.

Another assessment by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank noted similarly higher hospital fatality rates for those from ethnic minority backgrounds than white British communities.


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