Black and ethnic minority Brits are hit hardest by coronavirus crisis

1 May 2020, 09:36

NHS and health care workers who have died during the coronavirus pandemic
NHS and health care workers who have died during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A study has found coronavirus deaths among black and other minority ethnic (BAME) groups are disproportionately high.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also suggests the BAME community is more likely to be financially impacted by the outbreak - with a higher proportion of men in minority groups likely to be in jobs impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.

The report found per capita fatalities among the Black Caribbean population in English hospitals are three times those of white British people.

The IFS report also suggested given the average age profile and geographic locations that minority groups should have fewer deaths per capita than the white British majority.

The thinktank found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals is more than 2.5 times that of the white population.

Read more: Care home sees 13 patients recover from Covid-19 thanks to nurses' 'swine flu' experience

The report also found that deaths of people from a black Caribbean background were 1.7 times higher than for white Brits.

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While many minority groups live disproportionately in cities such as London and Birmingham, which have more Covid-19 deaths, most are also younger on average than the population as a whole, which should make them less vulnerable.

Labour's Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova MP, branded the report "disturbing" and warned it should not be ignored.

She said: “These figures once again reveal the disturbing impact of the coronavirus crisis on BAME communities across the country. It is extremely alarming to see such a high excess mortality rate among ethnic minorities and it cannot be ignored.

“The report also highlights the wider issue how some ethnic groups are more economically vulnerable during this crisis either through precarious work or low savings. The Government must make sure they do all they can to protect all those affected by the virus.”

Extract from the IFS report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME groups
Extract from the IFS report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME groups. Picture: Institute for Fiscal Studies

Ross Warwick, a research economist at IFS, said: "Hospital deaths show clear disparities between ethnic groups in their mortality from Covid-19.

"For example, per capita Black Caribbean fatalities are nearly three times that of Black African and Pakistani groups, which are close to the population average.

"However, when you account for the fact that most minority groups are relatively young overall, the number of deaths looks disproportionate in most ethnic minority groups."

The type of jobs where BAME workers are disproportionately represented also had an impact on their exposure to the virus or its economic consequences.

While in the population as a whole, woman are more likely to work in shutdown sectors, this is only the case for the white ethnic groups.

Bangladeshi men are four times as likely as white British men to have jobs in shuttered industries, due in large part to their heavy concentration in the restaurant sector, with Pakistani men nearly three times as likely, partly due to their concentration in taxi driving.

Black African and Black Caribbean men are both 50% more likely to be in shutdown sectors.

But those who continue to work are often in key frontline roles, at higher risk of exposure to the virus itself because of the jobs they perform.

More than 20% of Black African women of working age are employed in health and social care roles.

Pakistani men are 90% more likely to work in healthcare roles than their White British counterparts and while the Indian ethnic group makes up just 3% of the working-age population of England and Wales, they account for 14% of doctors.

Another possible factor behind disproportionately high death rates could be underlying health problems - two-thirds of Bangladeshi men over aged 60 have a long-term condition that would put them at particular risk from infection.

Professor Lucinda Platt, from the London School of Economics and a member of the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities panel, said: "There are striking differences in economic vulnerability between ethnic groups.

"Bangladeshi men are four times as likely as white British men to have jobs in shutdown industries, with Pakistani men nearly three times as likely; and household savings are lower than average among Black Africans, Black Caribbeans and Bangladeshis.

"By contrast Indians and the largely foreign-born other white group do not seem to be facing disproportionate economic risks."

Meanwhile, concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on BAME medics and carers staff has led NHS England to identify them as being at potentially greater risk.

Professor Tim Cook, honorary professor in anaesthesia at the University of Bristol, said: "The disproportionately high number of BAME health and social care workers dying from Covid-19 is striking, so I welcome news that NHS England has recommended these individuals to be identified as potentially at greater risk.

"Our analysis showed 63% of healthcare workers who have died from coronavirus were BAME individuals."