UK report shows blacks hit harder by Covid-19

  • Matt Hancock, the British health secretary (File photograph)

    Matt Hancock, the British health secretary (File photograph)

A sharp racial disparity in infection and death from Covid-19 was revealed yesterday in a review commissioned by the British Government.

The Public Health England report echoed a similar trend seen in Bermuda, where the coronavirus pandemic has taken a harsher toll on the island’s black population.

According to figures received last night, black patients have accounted for 79 per cent of Bermuda’s hospital cases for the virus, while 21 per cent were white.

The PHE findings prompted Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, to reference the Black Lives Matter movement, as the report showed higher death rates among black and Asian groups in Britain.

Titled Disparities in the risk and outcomes from Covid-19, the 89-page PHE document highlighted a range of disparities, age being the leading factor.

Frontline jobs in high-contact fields such as nursing, care homes, and taxi driving also posed a greater risk for illness.

But the report’s summary stated: “People from black ethnic groups were most likely to be diagnosed.

“Death rates from Covid-19 were highest among people of black and Asian ethnic groups.”

It added: “This is the opposite of what is seen in previous years, when the mortality rates were lower in Asian and black ethnic groups than white ethnic groups.

“Therefore, the disparity in Covid-19 mortality between ethnic groups is the opposite of that seen in previous years.”

Mr Hancock said at the daily coronavirus press conference yesterday that there was “much more work to do to understand what was driving these disparities and how the different risk factors interact”.

The impact of Covid-19 in Bermuda has been similarly skewed along racial lines, especially with deaths and cases requiring hospital treatment.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said on Monday that 57 per cent of the 141 cases in Bermuda had affected black people, 40 per cent white, and 4 per cent “other or unknown”.

The 2016 Census gives a more nuanced racial breakdown for the island, at 52 per cent black, 31 per cent white, 9 per cent identifying as mixed, 4 per cent Asian, and 4 per cent as “other”.

Ms Wilson also said at a May 13 press conference that: “As we have seen in other countries, the impact of Covid-19 is, indeed, also worse on black populations here in Bermuda.”

At that time, black patients accounted for 72 per cent of hospital cases.

Ms Wilson further revealed that “most distressingly, 88 per cent of deceased cases are black”.

The minister was unavailable for comment yesterday because of a cabinet meeting.

Ms Wilson said in May that the disproportionate impact on black residents was believed to be driven by “underlying health and socioeconomic disparities”.

She said chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, linked to higher chances of severe cases of the illness, were likely to hit black people harder.

Ms Wilson also highlighted a “greater likelihood of living in smaller dwellings and higher density areas” rendering black populations more vulnerable to a highly contagious virus.

The PHE report echoed trends in Bermuda and worldwide, where care homes have proved vulnerable.

It found 2.3 times the number of deaths in care homes than expected between March 20 and May 7, compared with previous years.

At 20,457 excess deaths, it suggested “many excess deaths from other causes or an under-reporting of deaths from Covid-19”.

Out of the known deaths from the virus, care homes had soared to 43 per cent of Britain’s cases by early May.

The report also cited a higher percentage of co-morbidities among coronavirus deaths: diabetes was reportedly mentioned on 21 per cent of death certificates.

Again, the report noted a higher rate of diabetes in the group designated “black, Asian and minority ethnic”, or BAME.

But the PHE review also cautions: “The relationship between ethnicity and health is complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors.”

To view the Public Health England report, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published Jun 3, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 3, 2020 at 6:42 am)

UK report shows blacks hit harder by Covid-19

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