Black people four times more likely to die from Covid-19, according to ONS findings

Updated: May 10, 2020

Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge (Picture: PA)

Black people in the United Kingdom are more than four times as likely to die from coronavirus than white people, the UK's statistics office said on Thursday.

Those of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity also have a significantly higher chance of dying from Covid-19 than white people, even when adjusting for deprivation, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The statistics office found that the difference in the virus’s impact was caused by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements.

"These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained," ONS said. Using models adjusted for a range of socioeconomic factors, the ONS said it was clear that there were significant differences in the risk of dying of Covid-19 among different ethnic groups.

It also discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die of a Covid-19-related death.

While only 2% of white British households experienced overcrowding from 2014 to 2017, 30% of Bangladeshi households, 16% of Pakistani households and 12% of black households experienced this, according to a study of the English Housing Survey. These groups are more likely to work in frontline roles in the NHS in England: nearly 21% of staff are from ethnic minorities, compared with about 14% of the population of England and Wales. Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations have been shown to face higher levels of unemployment and child poverty than white groups.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “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.”

The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people. Meanwhile, males of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnicity are 1.8 times more likely to die, according to the adjusted model.

Data from the United States showed African Americans were more likely to die from Covid-19, highlighting long-standing disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care. In the UK, the government last month, launched an inquiry into why ethnic minorities appear to be more vulnerable to the virus than their white counterparts, after it emerged that they were dying at a considerable rate.

Most doctors who have died of Covid-19 in the UK have been from non-white communities.

The figures, covering deaths from 2 March to 10 April, are the first official glance of the way Covid-19 has affected different ethnic groups in England and Wales.

There has been widespread concern that pre-existing health inequalities between black and minority ethnic populations – particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are being magnified during the pandemic.