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World & Nation

Coronavirus death risk nearly twice as high for black Britons than whites, data show

Britain Brexit
The Union Jack flies above Britain’s House of Lords in London in August. An analysis found that ethnic minorities have a significantly heightened risk of COVID-19-related death compared with those who identified themselves as white.
(Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press)

Almost all ethnic minorities in Britain are at greater risk of dying with the coronavirus, and blacks are nearly twice as likely to die than whites, according to an analysis by the national statistics agency.

The Office of National Statistics looked at the virus-related deaths in England and Wales from March 2 to April 10. Since ethnicity and race are not recorded on death certificates, researchers linked the mortality information to 2011 census data.

The analysis found that along with black Britons, people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and mixed ethnicity have a significantly heightened risk of COVID-19-related death compared with those who identified themselves as white.

After adjusting for factors such as age, socioeconomic background, health and disability, the study showed that black people were 1.9 times more likely to die with the coronavirus than whites in Britain, while Bangladeshi and Pakistani men were 1.8 times more likely to die than white males.

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The Office of National Statistics said ethnic Chinese and those of mixed ethnicity have risks for virus-related deaths similar to white people.

The office said that a substantial part of the variation among ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality can be explained by socioeconomic factors, noting that “other causes are still to be identified.”

The report’s authors said their model did not include some potentially relevant characteristics, such as employment. Bangladeshi and Pakistani individuals are more likely to work in public transit than any other ethnic group, and are therefore at higher risk of infection, they said.

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The findings echoed data from England’s National Health Service and other studies. The British Medical Assn. says 90% of the doctors who died after becoming infected with the coronavirus belonged to ethnic minority groups.

A desperate attempt to halt coronavirus cases is underway on the country’s largest reservation, which spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

In a statement issued Thursday, the medical association agreed with the statistics office that the analysis left “an unexplained part of the difference in mortality rates that needs more detailed investigation.

“We have always said there are likely to be multiple factors behind this, and as this analysis suggests, social and economic reasons play a substantial part,” the British Medical Assn. statement said. “We know that black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more likely to experience deprivation and live in overcrowded housing, which impacts their health, and that a greater number are in key worker roles, which lessens the chance of being able to socially distance.”


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