Matt Hancock orders urgent probe into why coronavirus deaths in obese and ethnic minorities are so high – The Sun

Posted: May 6, 2020 at 8:02 pm

A PROBE into how factors such as ethnicity and obesity can affect vulnerability to Covid-19 has been ordered by the Health Secretary.

Deaths among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are said to be disproportionately high.


It comes as Britain's ethnic minorities are suffering a vastly higher proportion of coronavirus deaths, figures show.

Covid-19 has killed 33 white people per 100,000 in English hospitals but 89 per 100,000 of black Caribbean descent, says NHS England.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies also showed deaths of British black Africans are 3.5 times those of white Brits, and Brit Pakistani deaths are 2.7 times higher.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We recognise that there has been a disproportionately high number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who have passed away especially among care workers and those in the NHS."

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, who said people would have noticed he was from an "ethnic minority group", added that the issue was being taken "incredibly seriously".

"We will get to the bottom of this however long it takes us," he said.

Mr Hancock added that data has also shown there could be a relationship between obesity and the impact of Covid-19 on individuals.

It comes after researchers at the University of Liverpool warned last week that obesity increased the risk of dying from the virus by 37 per cent.

He added: "Our knowledge about this virus grows daily and it appears some groups are more affected than others.

"Emerging data from around the world suggests there could possibly be a relationship between obesity and the impact of Covid-19 on individuals.

"It's too early to say if obesity in itself is a factor or conditions associated with it or there is not enough data yet to rule it out so we need to approach any assumptions with caution.

"Every death from this virus is a tragedy and behind each statistic is a name, a loss and a family that will never be the same again."

The review will analyse how factors such as ethnicity, gender and obesity can affect people's vulnerability to coronavirus.

Public Health England (PHE) said thousands of health records of people who have had Covid-19 will be examined to establish more "robust" data on what can impact the number of cases and health outcomes for different groups within the population.

Thefindings of the PHE-led review will be published at the end of the month.

We owe it to the nation to find out how this virus may affect different groups in different ways

Mr Hancock said: "As part of our continued effort to reduce health inequalities, we have commissioned PHE to consider various factors such as obesity, ethnicity, age, gender and geographical location, and how these may have an impact on someone's susceptibility to the virus, including our brilliant key workers and frontline NHS and social care staff.

"It's an extremely important and hugely complex task, but we owe it to the nation to find out how this virus may affect different groups in different ways, to protect lives and limit the spread of the disease."

PHE said available data on health outcomes for NHS staff will also be analysed to better understand how the virus affects frontline workers.

The review will also look at vulnerable groups such as people who are homeless and rough sleeping, it added.

It will be led by Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE public health director for London, who said: "Detailed and careful work is being done so that we can better understand this and explore the possible reasons for any disparities.

"Increasing evidence and concern around the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic groups highlights an important focus of this review.

"PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents."

The review will also match laboratory records of coronavirus cases to existing health records to compile accurate data such as ethnicity and describe the association with Covid-19 cases, alongside other factors such as sex, age and geographical location, PHE said.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was "extremely concerned" about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME health and care workers.

We cannot wait for the data to catch up while people are dying

Its chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: "Every day that passes without knowing why this happening is another day with frontline staff being needlessly put at extra risk.

"All healthcare workers need to be safe right now, and that means that all employees must risk assess BAME employees, including ensuring provision of the right PPE for everyone who needs it.

"We will continue to call for accurate reporting of the numbers of deaths and infections among BAME healthcare staff across the UK so that swift action can be taken by employers to reduce risk and harm. But we cannot wait for the data to catch up while people are dying."

Trevor Phillips, ex-chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: They say viruses dont discriminate.

But the faces of those who have died saving lives tell a very different story.

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We wont know the truth about coronavirus until we treat this question with the same seriousness we treat the search for a vaccine.

Heroic medics who have died on the front line are also disproportionately from an ethnic minority.

Britain's coronavirus death toll, rose to 28,734 yesterday - second only to Italy's among European nations.


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Matt Hancock orders urgent probe into why coronavirus deaths in obese and ethnic minorities are so high - The Sun

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