BAME Communities Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19


BAME Communities Disproportionately Affected by COVID-19


Evidence indicates that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are at higher mortality risk from COVID-19. Several studies have found that BAME groups are over-represented in COVID-19 critical case and death figures. Similarly, disparities have been observed in the mortality rates among BAME groups.

BAME communities account for 14% of the population of England and Wales, yet early figures have shown that 35% of critical care patients suffering from the virus have been in this demographic. Another distressing trend to emerge from data includes the disproportionate number of BAME NHS staff that have died after contracting the virus.

Analysis of hospital death data conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in England show deaths per capita are not consistent between BAME groups and white groups. In addition, predicted per capita deaths within BAME groups have been highest among black populations. The Intensive Care National Audit Research Centre (ICNARC) compared ICU figures and found that black ethnicity patients were 4 times more likely to succumb to COVID-19. Mixed ethnicity patients and Asian patients were 2 times and 3 times more likely, respectively. According to the Health Service Journal, BAME NHS healthcare workers make up 21% of the workforce, yet have harrowingly accounted for 63% of all NHS staff deaths.

IFS found that COVID-19 cases have not been evenly distributed across the country. Densely populated urban centres like Birmingham and London in particular have accounted for large numbers of COVID-19 cases. As of 1 May, 20% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases had been recorded in London. As large populations of BAME groups reside in such areas, it is likely that location has had a significant bearing on the high number of cases among BAME individuals.

Economic inequality is an issue impacting BAME groups that also has a profound effect on BAME communities. Ethnic minority groups in the UK and the US are more likely to work in low paid essential jobs causing them to face extended viral exposure and potential transmission. Beyond this, reports have found that poverty rates across minority ethnic groups tend to be higher than in other communities. Although employment rates have been high across all ethnic groups in the UK, unemployment remains high for some. Some members of BAME groups are more likely to earn less than the living wage, work in insecure roles and face other caring responsibilities. On top of this, some members tend to be overqualified for the work they do, suggesting a poor return for the improvement of their skills.

As such, BAME communities are more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged than others. Evidence suggests that minority ethnic people are more likely to live in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in England. Data shows that 19.6% and 17.1% of black and south Asian communities respectively, live in the most deprived areas in Britain. This inability for some to generate greater wealth or live in better conditions is a distinct concern in combatting COVID-19.

Overcrowded housing is a common by-product of socioeconomic disadvantage, and unsurprisingly, is an issue far more likely to affect BAME groups. According to UK government statistics, just 2% of the white British population live in overcrowded accommodation. This compares to 30% of Bangladeshi households and 15% of black African households. As living in such close proximity to others makes following social distancing guidelines hugely difficult, this has likely been a contributing factor to the disproportionate numbers of BAME deaths.

Considerable research has found linkages between poor housing conditions and adverse health. Poor housing conditions can cause some specific physical effects including cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues, and communicable disease transmission. These factors can all increase the likelihood of a person contracting COVID-19 and increase their chances of mortality to varying degrees.

The recent Public Health England (PHE) report went further in highlighting that BAME groups faced worse outcomes than others upon contracting COVID-19. Some of this is due to underlying health problems that BAME individuals can face. People with south Asian backgrounds are more likely to have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than other members in Britain. Similarly, black African people are more likely to suffer from higher rates of blood pressure, while Type 2 diabetes is most prevalent among BAME individuals. Additionally, certain BAME groups also suffer from an increased prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency, an issue known to lead to greater susceptibility to infection.

Considering the list of those deemed high-risk for contracting COVID-19 includes people with health complications, BAME individuals have cause for concern amid the pandemic. These factors have provided some much-needed insights into to the impact of COVID-19, yet more timely research will be necessary to provide a solid platform to address these tragic and distressing trends. 


Athiei Ajuong is a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of immigration solicitors.

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