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UK to review high proportion of coronavirus deaths among BAME communities, including Muslims

Over a third of seriously ill Covid-19 patients are from BAME backrounds [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 April, 2020

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The NHS will lead a review following a study that revealed over a third of seriously ill coronavirus patients in the UK are from non-white backgrounds.
The UK government announced on Thursday it was launching a formal investigation into why Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

The review will be led by the National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England, following findings that more than a third of seriously ill coronavirus patients were from BAME communities, who represent just 13 per cent of the UK population.

The probe follows calls from the Labour party and the British Medical Association (BMA) for an investigation into why non-white Brits seem to be more affected by the disease, including a "deeply disturbing" number of deaths of BAME health workers.

The first 10 UK doctors who died from Covid-19 were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

"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," the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the head of the British Medical Association, made an impassioned plea last week for the authorities to find out why BAME doctors seem to be more vulnerable to Covid-19.

Although BAME doctors make up 44 percent of medical personnel in UK's National Health Service (NHS), the fact that all who have died so far were from ethnic minorities was "extremely disturbing and worrying", Nagpaul said.

"At face value, it seems hard to see how this can be random – to have the first 10 doctors of all being of BAME background," the BMA chair told the Guardian on Friday.

"Not only that, we also know that in terms of the BAME population, they make up about a third of those in intensive care. There's a disproportionate percentage of BAME people getting ill.

"We have heard the virus does not discriminate between individuals but there's no doubt there appears to be a manifest disproportionate severity of infection in BAME people and doctors. This has to be addressed – the government must act now."

A study conducted by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that 35 percent of almost coronavirus 2,000 patients studied were non-white, nearly  triple the proportion of BAME people in the wider UK population.

The study, which looked at admissions to a sample of 286 critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up until last week, found that fourteen per cent of the most serious cases were Asian and the same proportion were black.

Read also: Comment: UK coronavirus response forces most vulnerable to shoulder the burden

A variety of socio-economic factors have been touted as the drivers of the disproportionate effects of Covid-19, including the fact that BAME communities live in more deprived areas, have more cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and are more likely to live in multi-generational households.

However frontline health workers have also complained that a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as insufficient testing of staff for Covid-19, is putting them and patients at risk.

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