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Serious concerns raised over lack of recorded BAME COVID-19 death data

A senior University of Leicester clinician-scientist has raised serious concerns over the lack of recorded data on the number of deaths of people from BAME backgrounds.

In an article published in The Lancet, Dr Manish Pareek, Associate Clinical Professor in Infectious Diseases and colleagues Professor Kamlesh Khunti and Dr Jatinder Minhas at the University of Leicester, highlighted that only 7% of all reports into COVID-19 deaths recorded ethnicity – and “none of the ten highest COVID-19 case-notifying countries reported ethnicity-related data.”

Dr Pareek deemed it “imperative (that) policy-makers urgently ensure ethnicity forms part of a minimum dataset”. He argued that “this omission (of data) seems stark given the disproportionate number of deaths amongst healthcare workers from BME backgrounds. Recent UK Intensive Care Unit data indicates that over a third of patients are from BME backgrounds.“

Writing in The Lancet, Dr Manish Pareek said: “Only 2/28 (7%) of publications reported ethnicity disaggregated data (both case- series without ethnicity-specific outcomes). We found that none of the 10 highest COVID-19 case-notifying countries reported ethnicity-related data; UK mortality reporting does not require information on ethnicity.

“This omission seems stark given the disproportionate number of deaths amongst healthcare workers from BME backgrounds. Recent UK Intensive Care Unit data indicates that over a third of patients are from BME backgrounds.

“Given previous pandemic experience, it is imperative policy-makers urgently ensure  ethnicity forms part of a minimum dataset. If ethnicity is confirmed to be associated with adverse COVID-19 outcomes, this must directly, and urgently, inform public health interventions globally.”

The Government announced on 16 April that a review is to be launched into why people from a black and minority ethnic background appear to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Discussing the reasons why BME communities might be at increased risk, Dr Pareek highlights how “certain ethnic groups such as South Asians have higher rates of certain co-morbidities” such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which have been associated with severe disease and mortality in COVID-19.

Dr Pareek also highlighted that “lower socio-economic status and inter-generational co-habitation” could also pose a risk by increasing virus spread.

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