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Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting BAME groups in the UK

There have been around 60,000 reported cases of Covid-19 coronavirus in the UK [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 April, 2020

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More than a third of coronavirus patients in the UK are from black, asian and minority ethnic groups, a new study indicates.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the United Kingdom are far more likely to become critically ill with Covid-19 than their white counterparts, early research into coronavirus patients indicates. 

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. This is nearly triple the 13% proportion BAME people make up in the UK population as a whole.

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

The findings have led to calls for more research into why coronavirus is disproportionately affecting non-white ethnic groups.

"This is a signal and it needs to be looked at more carefully," Kamlesh Khunti, professor in primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at the University of Leicester, told the Guardian.

"For example, South Asians live in more deprived areas and have more cardiovascular disease and diabetes."

Khunti also pointed to another possible factor - South Asian families often live with three or four generations under one roof, limiting the possibilities for vulnerable people to fully isolate.

"We need to ensure that every individual, including the BAME population, are following social distancing instructions," Khunti told the Guardian.

We have anecdotal information that it might not be happening in certain BAME groups."

There are also other socio-economic factors at play. NHS workers, as well as transport workers, are disproportionately drawn from ethnic minorities. 

Tributes poured in last week for British Muslim nurse Areema Nasreen, 36, after she became the UK's youngest health worker to die from the illness. 

The married mum of three was tested positive for the disease whilst working in Walsall Manor hospital in the West Midlands, where she had worked for 16 years.

Two British-Sudanese doctors died from Covid-19 that same week, as well as a British-Pakistani physician.

Hospital bosses and doctors have warned of being swamped by a "tsunami" of Covid-19 patients in London, as the UK braces for a peak in cases and the government faced calls to urgently provide specialist kit and tests for frontline health workers.

The UK initially adopted a light-touch approach to the outbreak but has since imposed tougher measures, including a three-week lockdown, as confirmed cases and deaths climbed.

Frontline healthcare workers say a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as insufficient testing of staff for Covid-19, is putting them and patients at risk.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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