PEOPLE of black or Asian ethnicity are up to twice as likely to be infected with Covid as those who are white, a review reveals.
Patients from Asian backgrounds are also more likely to be admitted to intensive care and to die from the bug if they catch it.
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Researchers from the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham believe poverty, poor health and frontline jobs are to blame.
And they say the findings raise the question of whether ethnic minorities should be given priority access to a vaccine.
It is the first review into how ethnicity affects Covid risk and includes 18.7million people in the UK and US across 50 studies.
The analysis reveals people of black ethnicity are 2-times more likely to catch the coronavirus than white people.
And people of Asian ethnicity are 1.5-times more likely than whites to be infected.
They are then 2-times more likely to suffer a severe infection that requires admission to ICU and 1.2-times more likely to die.
But black people face no higher odds of severe infection or death than whites once they have caught it.
Dr Manish Pareek, a hospital consultant and academic in Leicester, said: “Our findings suggest that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Asian communities is mainly attributable to increased risk of infection in these communities.
“Many explanations exist as to why there may be an elevated level of COVID-19 infection in ethnic minority groups, including the greater likelihood of living in larger household sizes comprised of multiple generations; having lower socioeconomic status, which may increase the likelihood of living in overcrowded households; and being employed in frontline roles where working from home is not an option.”
The researchers say minorities may also be less likely to implement public health measures or seek care when sick.
And existing health conditions, such as diabetes, which is more common in Asian people, are known to increase the risk of Covid.
But there is no evidence to prove the differences in Covid outcomes are due to genetics.
Colleague Dr Shirley Sze said: “The clear evidence of increased risk of infection amongst 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 findings are consistent with data from the Office for National Statistics and an audit of national intensive care units in the UK.
The review is published in EClinical Medicine by The Lancet.
A separate study by Public Health England found Brits with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die with coronavirus during the first wave of the outbreak.
As well as an increased risk of other underlying conditions, such as diabetes, experts think they are more likely to struggle to recognise Covid symptoms, and follow advice on testing, social distancing and infection prevention.
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