New report says BAME communities most affected by coronavirus shutdown. PHOTO: REUTERS

UK ethnic minorities suffer extra Covid deaths

New report says BAME communities most affected by coronavirus shutdown

Agencies May 01, 2020
LONDON: People from some ethnic minorities in Britain were dying in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19, possibly in part because they had been more likely to work in healthcare and other sectors most exposed to the virus, a leading think tank said on Friday.

The report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) comes days after the government launched in inquiry into why people from ethnic minority communities were “disturbingly” and disproportionately affected by coronavirus pandemic.

British media had reported at the start of this week that the death toll among the front-line health staff from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) topped 50. Overall, the reports had said, 82 front-line health and social care workers in England and Wales had died because of Covid-19.

The IFS said on Friday that per capita deaths for people in Britain who had black Caribbean heritage were three times that for white British citizens. Among other black groups the rate was double of the overall population, while those of Indian descent also suffered more fatalities than average, it added.

Taking into account the fact that most minority groups are much younger on average than the white British population, per capita death rates across almost all minority groups looked disproportionately high, it said in a report.

Part of the extra death rate could be explained by ethnic minorities’ higher likelihood to live in London or other cities hit hard by the virus, but geography was not the only factor. “There is unlikely to be a single explanation here,” Ross Warwick, a research economist at the IFS said.

“Different factors may be more important for different groups. For instance, while Black Africans are particularly likely to be employed in key worker roles which might put them at risk, older Bangladeshis appear vulnerable on the basis of underlying health conditions.”

The IFS said people from ethnic minorities in Britain were more likely to be hit financially by the coronavirus shutdown, adding that household savings were lower than average among people of black African, black Caribbean or Bangladeshi descent.

“Pakistani men are nearly three times as likely as white British men to have jobs in shutdown industries,” Lucinda Platt, a London School of Economics professor who sits on an IFS inequalities panel, said. Those of Indian heritage did not seem to be facing extra economic risks, the IFS added.

Other statistics had shown that 16% of those who died in Britain with the coronavirus up to April 17 were from BAME backgrounds, who form about 14% of the UK’s population. But in case of health and care staff fatalities the percentage went as high as 61%.

Data from Intensive Care National Audit and Research showed that one-third of people in intensive care with Covid-19 in the UK were non-white. And many of the over 100 health care workers who died in the outbreak were from BAME backgrounds.

A similar trend is seen in other developed countries also. About 42% of Covid-19 fatalities in the United States were of African Americans, who account for roughly 21% of the population. In France, the poor and largely immigrant neighborhoods on the fringes of Paris also see high increases in mortality.


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