Covid death rate gap closes for ethnic minorities in UK

Black and Asian people in the UK have been more likely to die from Covid

During the early stages of the pandemic, black and Asian people were much more likely to die from Covid. Getty
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Coronavirus death rates in the UK are no longer significantly higher for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, Office for National Statistics data show.

A number of factors played into narrowing the gap to the point that Covid deaths among ethnic minorities and the white population are now statistically similar.

During the early stages of the pandemic in the UK, black and Asian people were much more likely to die from Covid.

Epidemiologist Veena Raleigh said that during those early weeks and months, “we knew very little about [Covid-19], how it transmitted, and how to mitigate its spread and impact”.

“The virus had its greatest impact on people who were most vulnerable or exposed to the infection — that was older people and people working in frontline jobs, key workers in the NHS, public transport, etc. And of course, ethnic minorities are disproportionately working in those roles,” she said.

Initially the virus had a terrible impact in terms of mortality, Dr Raleigh said, but over time, more was learnt about how the virus spreads.

“Various social measures to control the spread of infection were introduced, like mask-wearing and social distancing. So that helped to moderate ethnic differences,” she said.

“And then, of course, the vaccination programme came in. And although vaccination rates are lower in some ethnic minority groups, nonetheless, a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated — or has some immunity because they've been exposed to the virus.

“All of these factors have contributed to reducing ethnic differences in Covid-19 mortality over time.”

In England, for the week ending February 7, the number of people testing positive for Covid has increased to an estimated 1,054,200 — less than 2 per cent of the population.

An ONS study published last year found Omicron was far less lethal than other mutations.

It found the risk of dying from Covid-19 was 66 per cent lower for patients with Omicron BA1 than it was for those with the Delta variant.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 5:38 PM