Covid: Why ethnic minority groups have been hit hardest by coronavirus

A patient has an ultrasound scan on an Intensive Care ward
A patient is treated in an intensive care ward. Credit: PA

New official analysis suggests that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups were worst hit by the pandemic because of where they live and work.

An Office for National Statistics survey of data spanning the first national lockdown seeks to explain why people from those communities are more likely to die and suffer poorer mental health.

The report uncovers particular differences in black and South Asian groups in England compared with the white population.

It found that between March 2 and July 28:

  • Black, Asian and other ethnic groups were more likely to die from coronavirus than white people.

  • Black African men were impacted the most as they were at least twice as likely to die from the virus as white men.

Taxi driver wearing a PPE mask Credit: PA


Black and Asian men were more exposed to the virus because they work in jobs linked to higher Covid-19 death rates. That's because those jobs involve regular face-to-face contact with people.

Jobs in security had the second highest death rate of all professions in England and Wales.

  • 74 deaths out of 100,000 men were security guards.

  • More than a third were from black, Asian and ethnic communities.

  • A quarter were from black and Pakistani backgrounds.

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs were greatly impacted, with 63 deaths out of 100,000 men.

Nearly two thirds (60%) of people from the profession are from ethnic groups.

There were also higher rates of death among women in care work, where a relatively high proportion are from a black background (13.2%).

A similar situation was found in nursing.

Block of flats in East London Credit: PA


Large multi-generational households are more common among people with Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Indian backgrounds making it harder for older people to shield.

A recent survey found that people aged 70 or older from the South Asian community are more likely to live in a multi-generational household.

Office for National Statistics chart showing proportion of people over 70 in multi-generational households Credit: Office for National Statistics

Another study around the time of the first UK lockdown shows a link between higher mortality in older adults living with younger people.

Women from south Asian - Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani - households are most commonly affected.

Overcrowding is also a problem.

  • 24% of Bangladeshi households are overcrowded

  • That compares with 18% of Pakistani households

  • 16% black African households are also cramped

Women walking along in the street wearing burkas Credit: PA

Urban dwelling and deprivation

Research also shows that Covid-19 deaths rates are higher in cities and areas of deprivation.

The highest death rates were found in built-up areas in England and Wales where the highest number of ethnic minorities live.

The death rate was around twice as high in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived areas up until July.

Access to a garden during the lockdown was important for mental health and also for access to the open air to avoid catching the virus.


  • Only 1 in 8 British households had access to a garden

  • 40% of black ethnic families had access to an outdoor space compared with nearly 10% of white families.

  • 20% of Asian families had no outside space during the lockdown.