Last reviewed 13 May 2020
Latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) data on COVID-19 related deaths by ethnic group have revealed that black men and women are four times more likely to die from the virus.
The data revealed disproportionate COVID-19 mortality rates for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, particularly black men and women who are over four times more likely to die than white people. These figures add to a trend among healthcare workers in which more than 90% of doctors who have died have come from a BAME background.
The findings have prompted calls from the British Medical Association (BMA) for urgent action to protect members of the BAME community, those working on the front line, key workers, and the wider community.
The Government confirmed that it will launch a formal review into the disproportionate impact of Coronavirus on people from BAME backgrounds, with NHS bosses tasked to consider the evidence that BAME patients are more likely to die from COVID-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced at a Downing Street briefing: "We have seen, both across the population as a whole but in those who work in the NHS, a much higher proportion who've died from minority backgrounds and that really worries me. I pay tribute to the work they've done, including those who were born here, moved here, and given that service to the NHS. It's a really important thing that we must try to fully understand."
In response to the Public Health England (PHE) announcement of a formal review, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Chair Professor Martin Marshall said: "We are aware that COVID-19 mortality rates among the BAME community have been disproportionate – and it's vital we understand why this is. The four GPs who have sadly died as a result of COVID-19 were all from the BAME community, and we thank them for their service to the NHS and express our sympathies to their loved ones.
"We're keen to understand this trend and therefore we welcome Public Health England's review into the COVID-19 mortality rates among the BAME community for both patients and healthcare professionals alike. Currently guidance is the same across all ethnicity groups and communities. As a profession that is guided by evidence we must wait for recommendations from this review to come to light before deciding how best to address concerns here. With this in mind we would urge PHE to act swiftly in this regard."
BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the latest ONS statistics were further evidence of the "shockingly disproportionate" impact of COVID-19 on the BAME community. He said the data were "deeply worrying" and highlighted "the importance of ensuring that urgent action is taken to protect members of the BAME community, those working on the front line, key workers, and indeed the wider community."
He added: “While this analysis highlights the much broader issue of inequalities in our society, there is still an unexplained part of the difference in mortality rates that needs more detailed investigation.
“Crucially, it is important that people from BAME communities working in healthcare and key worker roles have the adequate protection they need and are effectively risk assessed. The need to protect those from BAME communities is also an important consideration as the Government looks to ease the lockdown.”