Call for guidance after BAME COVID-19 death figures released

Urgent guidance on how the NHS will seek to minimise risk to those people from BAME backgrounds who are receiving care and serving on the frontline is being called for, in response to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) today.

The ONS has today published figures on COVID-19 deaths by ethnic group, which shows that people from a BAME background are at a significantly higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than those of white ethnicity.

Black men and women are more than four times more likely to die a coronavirus-related death than white people, and people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities also had an increased risk of death involving COVID-19 compared with those of white ethnicity, the ONS found.

Dr. Manish Pareek, Associate Clinical Professor in Infectious Diseases at the University of Leicester, said: “Today’s statistics clearly show a link between ethnicity and increased risk of death involving COVID-19 – something which the University of Leicester was one of the first to raise concerns about.

“Although the exact causes linking ethnicity to greater risk haven’t been confirmed, the statistics raise important questions around the management of healthcare for the general population, and how the NHS will seek to minimise risk to those people from BAME backgrounds that are receiving care.

“Additionally, due to the increased risk to healthcare workers from BAME backgrounds serving on the NHS frontline, today’s figures make it even more critical that urgent guidance is issued to ensure they are protected and not placed at unnecessary risk.”

In a paper published in the British Medical Journal in late April, academics at the University of Leicester – Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine, and Dr Manish Pareek, Associate Clinical Professor in Infectious Diseases – highlighted possible reasons why people from BAME backgrounds may have a higher incidence and severity of COVID-19.

The academics both cited factors such as an increased risk of hospital admission for acute respiratory tract infections, vaccination policies in the country of birth and effects of immunity, and higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors such as insulin resistance and obesity than white populations.

In the ONS report it is reported that people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Mixed ethnicities have a statistically raised risk of death involving COVID-19. And when age is taken into account black males and females are over 4 times more likely to die from a COVID-19. These statistics are all in relation to the death rates of people with white ethnicity.

The ONS report of 7 May 2020 includes deaths involving COVID-19 between 2 March and 10 April 2020. Although ethnicity is not recorded on the death certificate, they were able to undertake this analysis by linking the deaths with the 2011 Census.