Black Lives Matter

Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups

There is clear evidence that COVID-19 does not affect all population groups equally. Many analyses have shown that older age, ethnicity, male sex and geographical area, for example, are associated with the risk of getting the infection, experiencing more severe symptoms and higher rates of death.

This work has been commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer for England to understand the extent that ethnicity impacts upon risk and outcomes.
The PHE review of disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 shows that there is an association between belonging to some ethnic groups and the likelihood of testing positive and dying with COVID-19. Genetics were not included in the scope of the review.

This review found that the highest age standardised diagnosis rates of COVID-19 per 100,000 population were in people of Black ethnic groups (486 in females and 649 in males) and the lowest were in people of White ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males).

An analysis of survival among confirmed COVID-19 cases showed that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to 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.

Death rates from COVID-19 were higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to White ethnic groups. This is the opposite of what is seen in previous years, when the all-cause mortality rates are lower in Asian and Black ethnic groups.

Comparing to previous years, all-cause mortality was almost 4 times higher than expected among Black males for this period, almost 3 times higher in Asian males and almost 2 times higher in White males. Among females, deaths were almost 3 times higher in this period in Black, Mixed and Other females, and 2.4 times higher in Asian females compared with 1.6 times in White females.

These analyses did not account for the effect of occupation, comorbidities or obesity. These are important factors because they are associated with the risk of acquiring COVID-19, the risk of dying, or both. Other evidence has shown that when comorbidities are included, the difference in risk of death between ethnic groups among hospitalised patients is greatly reduced.

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