People from black backgrounds four times more likely to die from virus than people from white backgrounds, ONS finds

Risk of death from coronavirus differs between different ethnic groups. Credit: PA

People from black backgrounds in England and Wales are four times more likely to die from coronavirus than people from white backgrounds, new statistics suggest.

Data from the Office for National Statistics found that black females in England and Wales are 4.3 times more likely to die from a Covid-19-related death than white females, after accounting for age.

Meanwhile, black males are 4.2 times more likely than white males to die from a coronavirus-related death.

People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities also had an increased risk of death involving Covid-19 compared with those of white ethnicity, the ONS found.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani females 1.6 times more likely, than white people when these factors included.

The ONS found increased mortality rates due to Covid-19 for all ethnic minority groups, except for in Chinese women.

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the figures showing black people were at greater risk of death from Covid-19 were "appalling".

The data is based on deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales which occurred between March 2 and April 10 Credit: PA

When age and other socio-demographic characteristics and measures of self-reported health and disability were taken into account the figure reduce but people from black ethnicities were still 1.9 times more likely to die from a Covid-19 related death than people of white backgrounds in England and Wales.

The analysis looked at how coronavirus has affected different ethnic groups from March 2 to April 10.

As ethnicity is not recorded on death certificates, the ONS linked these to the 2011 Census which includes self-reported ethnicity.

After taking account of other factors, such as health, disability, household composition and area deprivation, black men and women were 1.9 times more likely to die with Covid-19 than those of white ethnicity.

The ONS said a “substantial part of the difference in Covid-19 mortality between ethnic groups is explained by the different circumstances in which members of those groups are known to live, such as areas with socio-economic deprivation”.

It continued: “Geographic and socio-economic factors were accounting for over half of the difference in risk between males and females of black and white ethnicity.

“However, these factors do not explain all of the difference, suggesting that other causes are still to be identified.”

Overall, 83.8% of the deaths occurred in people of white ethnicity, with black people making up the largest minority ethnic group, accounting for 6% of the overall deaths recorded within the date range, the ONS said.

Its findings are similar to NHS England data which, when ethnicity could be established, found 82.7% of deaths were in white people and 5.7% in black people.

It said some individuals may have different socio-economic characteristics that were not included in the ONS model, which could explain some of the difference.

It also suggested that some ethnic groups may be “over-represented in public-facing occupations” and therefore more likely to be infected.

Risk of death from coronavirus differs between different ethnic groups. Credit: PA

The ONS plans to examine the link between occupation and risk.

As ethnicity was taken from the 2011 Census, the data may not accurately reflect the composition of society in 2020, the ONS warned.

The study also did not take into account emigration since 2011, meaning there is the potential for the mortality risk to be underestimated.

Tim Elwell-Sutton, assistant director of strategic partnerships at the Health Foundation, said the Government must consider how “deep-rooted discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantage are placing some people at increased risk”.

He added: “As well as meeting the urgent needs of those most affected in the weeks ahead, the government must ensure that existing inequalities are not exacerbated in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

Following the publication of the ONS data, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for ethnicity to be recorded on death certificates so the true toll on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities is not missed.

He said: “We need to fully expose the effect it is having on our communities, have honest conversations about what is behind it, why it is happening, and work hard to tackle these problems.”

“I’m working hard to do all I can to support and fight for London’s diverse communities, but the Government cannot ignore the structural problems in our society that mean minority ethnic Londoners are more likely to work in lower paid jobs, live in overcrowded accommodation and suffer from underlying health conditions which put them at greater risk.”

Responding to Thursday's report, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’re aware that this virus has sadly appeared to have a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds.

"It is critical we find out which groups are most at risk so we can take the right steps to protect them and minimise their risk.

“We have commissioned Public Health England to better understand the different factors, such as ethnicity, obesity and geographical location that may influence the effects of the virus.”

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