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Black people are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white in England and Wales, ONS report shows

Published on 07/05/20 at 12:53pm
Photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

A recent report from the Office of National Statistics has shown that black people in England and Wales are four times more likely to die from the COVID-19 coronavirus than white people.

Their report presented an analysis of coronavirus fatalities between 2 March and 10 April. As ethnicity is not recorded on a death certificate, the researchers used the 2011 census to identify deceased sufferers of COVID-19 by ethnicity.

The study found that black men are 4.2 times more likely to die from coronavirus than their white counterparts, while black women are 4.3 times more likely. When allowances are made for deprivation and health factors, black people are still 1.9 times more likely to die from the virus.

This is the starkest contract, but other non-white groups are also at higher risk of dying from the virus. Bangladeshi and Pakistani men are 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white men, while Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are 1.6 times more likely compared to white women.

However, there are limitations to the study which the ONS outlined. The research does not directly measure emigrations since the 2011 Census and used socio-demographic factors recorded during this census.

The disproportionate effect on non-white Britons can also be seen in NHS staff that have died from the virus. On Wednesday, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Dianne Abbott, tweeted: “Reminded government that sixteen of the seventeen doctors that had died from COVID were BAME. And that the NHS surcharge on BAME NHS workers was particularly unfair, when increasingly they were paying with their lives.”

Around 64% of the general NHS staff who have died from the virus were also BAME workers. A draft NHS England document, shown to HSJ, has outlined measures to tackle the disproportionate number of BAME deaths. It states: “Guidance and support to employers on creating proactive approaches to risk assessment for BAME staff, including physical and mental health. A bespoke health and wellbeing (including rehab and recovery) offer for BAME staff will be developed and rolled out for the system (led by NHSE/I).”

NHS England’s Chief People Officer, Prerana Issar, also told HSJ that: “The NHS is quite rightly looking at how to best support our BAME staff throughout the covid-19 outbreak.

“This initial discussion draft aimed to stimulate debate and test ideas for this very complex issue. Some ideas in it will be feasible, and some may not be, but it’s right to discuss them. We’ve also subsequently corrected some of the draft data in the discussion paper.”

Conor Kavanagh

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