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Being of Bangladeshi ethnicity doubles Covid-19 death risk, finds PHE review


By Costanza Perce and Isabel Shaw

03 Jun 2020

People of Bangladeshi origin are the most at-risk group of dying from Covid-19, Public Health England’s rapid review into the disparities in risks and outcomes of Covid-19 has found.

But the report, published today, found that ‘people from Black ethnic groups were most likely to be diagnosed’ with the disease.

In response, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was ‘determined’ to ‘understand in full and take action to address’ the health inequalities that have been exposed.

The report said: ‘An analysis of survival among confirmed Covid-19 cases and using more detailed ethnic groups, shows that after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity. 

‘People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.’

This contrasts with previous years where mortality rates were ‘lower in Asian and Black ethnic groups than White ethnic groups’, PHE said.

But it noted its ethnicity analysis did not account for comorbidities, obesity or occupation – which are associated with both the risk of infection and of dying.

When separately analysing comorbidities, the review found that people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to have comorbidities that lead to negative outcomes from coronavirus.

It said: ‘The proportion of Covid-19 deaths where diabetes is mentioned ranged from 18% in the White ethnic group, 43% in the Asian group to 45% in the Black group.’

The same ‘disparities’ were found for hypertensive disease, which was present on the death certificate of 20% of those who died with coronavirus.

The proportion ranged from 17% in the White ethnic groups to 40% in the Black group and was ‘also high’ in the Asian and Mixed groups, PHE said.

It added that ‘emerging evidence’ has also suggested that a better understanding is needed of the impact of obesity on Covid-19 outcomes ‘particularly’.

However, the biggest risk factor for death from Covid-19 remained age, PHE’s review concluded, with sex and social deprivation also playing significant parts.

Announcing the publication in Parliament today, Mr Hancock said: ‘People are understandably angry about injustices and as health secretary I feel a deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation.

‘It is very clear that some people are significantly more vulnerable to Covid-19 and this is something I am determined to understand in full and take action to address.’

The equalities minister will be ‘leading on this work and taking it forward’ alongside PHE to further understand the impacts of the review’s findings, he added.

The pharmacy sector has a high representation of BAME workers, currently comprising 47 per cent of the workforce.

On Monday (June 1) the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Director for England, Ravi Sharma, called for a mandatory risk assessment for BAME all staff. He said: ‘The NHS and employers must make adjustments and re-shape their services if needed to enable people with a BAME background to continue to deliver high-quality patient care.’

Last week, the PDA wrote to ministers to raise concerns about the higher death rates from COVID-19 amongst BAME people and called for steps to be taken to mitigate risk to the group.

Head of Policy at the PHA Alima Batchelor, said ‘This is an example of an issue with a potentially profound impact on our BAME members and their families which legitimately calls for consideration of the factors which may be contributing to the stark difference in mortality rates.  The network enhances our capacity to do that.’


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