The Great Magnifier: How Coronavirus Is Showing Inequalities Between Ethnic Groups
Black people in England and Wales are twice as likely to die from coronavirus as white people.
This result is shown in a report released on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics that has analysed the coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by ethnic group in two of the UK regions. As we reach the sad record of European country with the most number of deaths, over 31 thousand and still counting, the report has revealed that the risk of death involving the coronavirus among some ethnic groups is significantly higher than that of those of White ethnicity. To be more precise, taking into account age in the analysis, black males (defined by the study as Black Caribbean, Black African and Black Other) are 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19, and black females 4.3 times more.
The data covers a period through April 10. Its figures are supported by previous studies and a wide literature on ethnicity and mortality.
The reason behind the differences in the risk of dying for coronavirus is thought to be driven by differences in a group’s demographic and socio-economic profile. The analysis found that longstanding differences in wealth, education, living arrangements and self-reported health could explain a portion of the outsized impact of the virus on racial and ethnic minorities. But the authors point out that: “The disparities are partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained.”
While the report was unable to clearly outline every factor behind the trend, its conclusion remains pretty clear. So much for those who said the pandemic would have been a great equaliser.
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic groups highlights an important focus of the research, but there’s nothing new under the sun: previous evidence on physical and mental health, disease prevention, quality of care and access to treatment indicates that most ethnic minority groups tend to be more disadvantaged than their White counterparts.
“The underlying health and social disparities that drive inequality in health and life expectancy have been there all along, and this virus has just laid them bare – said Dr. Riyaz Patel, an associate professor of cardiology at University College London – This pandemic has not been the great leveler. It’s been the great magnifier, as it were.”
Richard Blundell, professor of economic policy at University College London, said to the Financial Times that the pandemic had highlighted the need to address all the challenges of inequality, especially as it affected ethnicity: “There is no question there is a really worrying, disproportionately high number of hospital deaths among non-white British people and we’re only just beginning to understand that.”
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away, especially among care workers and those in the NHS.” In addition, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, added that the issue was being taken “incredibly seriously. We will get to the bottom of this however long it takes us.”
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