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Covid-19: PHE review has failed ethnic minorities, leaders tell BMJ

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 08 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2264

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  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

A government review promised to discover why covid-19 has a disproportionate effect on people from ethnic minorities, but advocacy groups say their input was ignored, Gareth Iacobucci hears

Medical and race equality organisations have told The BMJ they are angry and frustrated that a review that set out to examine the disproportionate effect of covid-19 on people from ethnic minority groups produced no plan for protecting them from the disease.

The review by Public Health England, published on 2 June,12 promised to examine why people from ethnic minorities were more likely to contract and die from covid-19 and to make recommendations for “further action that should be taken to reduce disparities in risk and outcomes from covid-19 on the population.”

But though it confirmed previous data showing that ethnic minorities were disproportionately affected (box 1), it mentioned nothing about what could be done to reduce the disparities.

Box 1

Key findings from PHE’s review

  • Black ethnic groups were most likely to have covid-19 diagnosed, with 486 diagnoses per 100 000 population among females and 649 in males. The lowest diagnosis rates were in white ethnic groups (220 per 100 000 in females and 224 in males).

  • Death rates were highest among people in black and Asian ethnic groups. When compared with previous years, all cause mortality was almost four times higher than expected among black males for this period, almost three times higher in Asian males, and almost two times higher in white males. Deaths were almost three times higher than expected in this period among black, mixed, and other females, 2.4 times higher in Asian females, and 1.6 times higher in white females.

  • The risk of death among people of Bangladeshi ethnicity was twice that among people of white British ethnicity, while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean, and other black ethnicity had a …

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