(SKY NEWS) – Black people are up to four times more likely to die with COVID-19 than their white counterparts, the Office for National Statistics has found.
New analysis published on Thursday showed black women are more likely to die by a factor of 4.3 and black men by 4.2 compared to Caucasian people, after adjusting for age.
Other ethnic minorities have a heightened risk, too.
Those with Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds were found to be 3.6 times more likely to die in men and 3.4 in women.
While among people with Indian ethnicity, women were 2.7 times more likely to die and men 2.4.
For the Chinese ethnic group, the heightened risk for men was 1.9 and 1.2 for women.
Fatalities from coronavirus were also found to be twice as high in the most deprived parts of the UK, where those from ethnic minority backgrounds mainly reside, compared with the least deprived.
Underlying health conditions prevalent in those communities play a role in the disproportionate number of deaths, the ONS said.
“There’s really a strong social gradient to mortality rates generally, and even more for COVID,” explained the body’s head of health analysis, Nick Stripe.
However, he cautioned that when adjusting for other factors – such as household composition, area deprivation, and any health or disability factors – the odds of death involving COVID-19 were “substantially reduced” for all ethnic groups relative to white people.
The demographic levels it measures against also come from the last census in 2011, which is held every ten years, so may not accurately reflect current levels.
More than 30,000 people have died with the virus so far in the UK.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the new figures were “appalling” and called for an investigation into “the causes of this disproportionality”.
“Action must be taken to protect black men and women – as well as people from all backgrounds – from the virus,” he tweeted.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned the statistics “reveal the true impact coronavirus is having on ethnic minority people”.
She said: “While the ONS has revealed the numbers, the reasons are less clear.
“Race inequality is persistent across Britain, with people from ethnic minorities facing disadvantage in their living conditions, access to healthcare and economic opportunities, among other areas, which could be contributing factors.”
A spokesperson for the health and social care department said: “Any death from this virus is a tragedy and we are working incredibly hard to protect the nation’s public health.
”We’re aware that this virus has sadly appeared to have a disproportionate effect on people from BAME backgrounds. It is critical we find out which groups are most at risk so we can take the right steps to protect them and minimise their risk.
”We have commissioned Public Health England to better understand the different factors, such as ethnicity, obesity and geographical location that may influence the effects of the virus.”
A study by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has also found that the suggestion there is a higher prevalence of medical problems among people from ethnic minority backgrounds only accounts for a “small part of the excess risk”.
It called for “further work” to investigate the true causes.
Almost a quarter of UK businesses – 23% – have halted trading due to the lockdown, the ONS figures also show.
The hardest hit sectors have been accommodation and food, where 81% of companies have stopped trading, and arts and entertainment, where 80% have ended operations.
More than two-thirds of firms – 67% – have applied for the government’s furlough scheme, while 58% reported a fall in turnover.