Coronavirus: Review launched into how ethnicity and gender affect vulnerability

4 May 2020, 20:45

More than 100 healthcare workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic
More than 100 healthcare workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Thousands of health records are set to be examined as part of a major review into how factors such as ethnicity, gender and obesity can affect people's vulnerability to coronavirus, health leaders have said.

Public Health England (PHE) the review aims to establish more "robust" data on what can impact the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population.

Health data for frontline NHS staff will also be examined as officials scramble to understand why more than 100 healthcare workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic.

PHE said the review will provide "insight" into emerging evidence the virus is having a disproportionate effect on different groups.

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It follows reports that deaths among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are disproportionately high.

Findings will be published "by the end of May 2020", the Department of Health said.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the death rate among BAME (black and minority ethnic) communities is more than 2.5 times that of white populations.

Figures from NHS England also show that among black Caribbean Britons, hospital deaths per 100,000 were three times that among the majority white British population.

In new details released on Monday, PHE said its review will also assess deprivation, obesity and homelessness to see if they heighten the risk of becoming infected.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially amongst care workers and those in the NHS.”

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam added: “We owe it to minority ethnic groups to get this right and get a clear signal for you. We will get to the bottom of this."

Professor Kevin Fenton, Regional Director of Public Health at PHE and NHS London, said: "Having an accurate understanding of how diseases affect different groups of people is a really important issue and a fundamental part of PHE’s role.

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"Detailed and careful work is being done so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparities.

"Increasing evidence and concern around the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic groups highlights an important focus of this review.

"PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents.

"PHE is engaging a wide range of external experts and independent advisors, representing diverse constituencies including devolved administrations, faith groups, voluntary and community sector organisations, local government, public health, academic, royal colleges and others.

"We are committed to hearing voices from a variety of perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on people of different ethnicities."