Covid: England’s Muslims died at drastically higher rate than other religions

Muslim men at higher risk during first and second wave, study says

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/01/12: A woman walks past the Government's 'Stay Home, Save Lives' Covid-19 publicity campaign poster in London, as the number of cases of the mutated variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus continues to spread around the country. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Muslims in England died at a significantly higher rate than other religions during the Covid-19 pandemic, even once factors such as occupation and living arrangements were considered.

There were 967 deaths per 100,000 Muslim men in a year – compared to 605 Hindu men, 415 Buddhist men and 402 Christian men.

Muslim women were also at heightened risk, especially during the second wave.

The findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) add to the weight of evidence that minority groups are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

But in a finding described as unexplained by researchers, Muslim men were at higher risk even once some likely factors were accounted for.

These were age, location, social deprivation, occupation, living arrangements and certain underlying health conditions.

This was also true of Muslim women during the second wave of the pandemic.

“Further work is needed to increase our knowledge and understanding of the possible mechanisms underlying this unexplained risk," the study authors said.

The ONS said it was difficult to separate religion from ethnic background in studying the effects of Covid-19.

Among Muslims, 75.7 per cent of deaths were in people from a South Asian background.

A separate study this month showed that the South Asian population in England was at higher risk from the virus throughout 2020.

This inequality was found to have worsened during the second wave.

“For some religious groups, there is considerable overlap with ethnic background,” the ONS said.

“This means that it is difficult to separate the observed association between Covid-19 mortality risk and religion from the risk associated with ethnic background.”

The new figures for Muslim men reflect 2,727 deaths in the first year of the pandemic.

Their death rate of 967 deaths per 100,000 people was higher than that for any other religious group.

Among Muslim women, there were 1,464 deaths over the same period ending in February 2021.

Their death rate of 519 per 100,000 was also the highest of any religion. It was 347 for Hindu women, 250 for Christian women and 230 for Buddhist women.

During the second wave last November, a Birmingham graveyard became the first Muslim burial ground in the UK to declare itself full amid the pandemic.

The main Muslim cemetery in Bradford was also struggling to keep up with burials.

In addition to a greater risk of illness and death from Covid-19, there are also concerns over lower vaccination take-up among ethnic minorities.

Experts say that endemic racism and the legacy of past mistreatment create a lack of trust among ethnic minority groups.

Figures published last month by the ONS showed that 91.3 per cent of white British people in England over 70 had received a Covid-19 vaccine.

But the figure was only 74.0 per cent in people of Pakistani background and 72.7 per cent among the Bangladeshi group.