It's Not Just the U.S.: Black People in England Are Far More Likely to Die of Coronavirus, Too

Shocking new figures show that black people in England and Wales are more than four times more likely to die than their white counterparts are.
May 7, 2020, 12:09pm
coronavirus england

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Shocking new figures released on Thursday morning show that black people in England and Wales are more than four times more likely to die from the coronavirus than their white counterparts are.

The figures, published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show that black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) groups were at a disproportionately greater risk of dying from the coronavirus compared to white people.

The data shows that, after taking age into account, black men are 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white males. The number rises to 4.3 for black women.

Even when the figures are adjusted to account for pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education, and living arrangements, there is still a huge disparity. Taking all those factors into account, black people are still almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19.

“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS report says.

The situation in England and Wales mirrors data coming out of the U.S.

Black Americans account for almost one-third of all infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control even though they represent only 13% of the overall population. Data analyzed by the Associated Press also suggests that nearly one-third of those who have died across the country are black.

But in the U.K., it’s not just black people who are at greater risk.

READ: Most brown and black Americans are exposing themselves to coronavirus for a paycheck

The ONS data shows that Bangladeshi and Pakistani males are 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white males are — even after other pre-existing factors had been factored in. The figure drops slightly to 1.6 for females in the same group.

While Indian men and women appear to be less likely to die than Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, they were still 1.3 times and 1.4 times more at risk than white people.

The only BAME group found to be less likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts were Chinese women, though Chinese men were 1.2 times more likely to die.

While the ONS says that some of the disparity in the figures among ethnicities has yet to be explained, it points to socioeconomic factors as being one of the reasons minorities are at great risk.

Overcrowding is one of the factors that can lead to greater COVID-19 infection rates and the ONS points out that between 2014 and 2017 around 679,000 English households (out of 23 million) were overcrowded.

But, only 2% of these were White British households, while 30% of Bangladeshi households experienced overcrowding, compared to 16% of Pakistani households and 12% of black households.

READ: Black pastors plead for government action on coronavirus: 'I have two funerals to do this week'

Another factor affecting Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups is that they make up by far the largest percentage of bus or taxi drivers, many of whom are still working during the outbreak.

While the figures are shocking, they were not unexpected. Last month, the NHS director for workforce, race, and equality revealed that 72% of all deaths among frontline healthcare workers came from the BAME community, even though that same community makes up 44% of the entire NHS workforce.

Hours before the ONS data was published, analysis by researchers at University College London (UCL) found that BAME people were “two to three” times more likely to die from coronavirus compared to the general population.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said the figures were "appalling” tweeting:

“It is urgent the causes of this disproportionality are investigated. Action must be taken to protect black men and women - as well as people from all backgrounds - from the virus.”

Rights groups say that racial inequality in the U.K. is a persistent issue, and the causes of this particular disparity need to be uncovered and addressed quickly.

“These statistics reveal the true impact coronavirus is having on ethnic minority people. Behind every number is a person, with a family left devastated and looking for answers,” Rebecca Hilsenrath, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said in a statement. “While the ONS has revealed the numbers, the reasons are less clear.”

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Cover: File photo dated 08/04/20 of a London bus driver wearing a protective face mask, Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire URN:53381606 (Press Association via AP Images)