Black people 'twice as likely to catch coronavirus'

By Smitha Mundasad
Health reporter

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Black people are twice as likely as white people to catch the coronavirus, a study of 18 million people suggests.

The research also indicates Asian people are 1.5 times more likely than white people to be infected - and may be more likely to need intensive care.

Researchers say their findings are of "urgent public-health importance" and raise questions about how vaccines will be prioritised within at-risk groups.

The work, in EClinical Medicine, adds support to other studies' findings.

'Structural discrimination'

There has been mounting evidence people belonging to ethnic minorities are at greater risk from Covid-19.

But whether the risks centre around a higher likelihood of catching the disease or of developing more severe illness from the virus is not fully understood.

The researchers at the universities of Leicester and Nottingham looked at data from eight UK and 42 US studies.

Some tentative evidence suggests Asian people may be at higher risk of death than other groups, they found.

But lead researcher Dr Manish Pareek said there was little evidence the risks were driven by genetic factors.

People belonging to ethnic minorities were more likely to work in front-line roles and live in large households with several generations, he added.

media captionBAME coronavirus deaths: What's the risk for ethnic minorities?

Fellow lead researcher Dr Shirley Sze said: "The clear evidence of increased risk of infection among ethnic minority groups is of urgent public health importance.

"We must work to minimise exposure to the virus in these at-risk groups by facilitating their timely access to healthcare resources and target the social and structural disparities that contribute to health inequalities."

The researchers suggest "racism and structural discrimination may also contribute to an increased risk of worse clinical outcomes within ethnic minority communities".

It comes after a scientific adviser to the government previously suggested racism did not explain the increased risk to people belonging to ethnic minorities.

Dr Raghib Ali, speaking last month at a briefing on a government report about Covid disparities, said ethnicity should no longer be used to judge whether people were at greater risk from the virus.

He added focusing on all those at higher risk due to the underlying factors, such as jobs and housing, would help more people overall - from all ethnic groups.

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