Covid-19: U.K. Disproportionate Affliction of Non-Whites Mirrors that of U.S.

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Photo: Commons Wikimedia/U.K. Government.
Boris Johnson, the U.K. Prime Minister was also a Covid-19 victim. Data show disproportionate infection of non-Whites
 
[The View From London]
 
The National Health Service (NHS) England announced on May 5 that  a further 366 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 21,750. The death toll U.K.-wide is now more than 30,000. (Other European countries with high death tolls include Spain with 25,613, Italy 29,315, and France 25,531).
 
Research from the Intensive Care National Audit (ICNA) conducted in early April found that of nearly 2,000 critically ill patients, 35% were none-white. This is alarming since Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME), account for only 13% of the population in Britain.
 
Asian people—Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis—represented the largest ethnic group in all the critical Covid-19 cases confirmed to ICNA  as of early April, with 272 of the cases, while 268 were Black. The data, which is believed to be the only one that breaks-down ethnic Covid-19 cases in the world, has prompted calls for the research to go a lot further into why the disease disproportionately afflict non-white groups.
 
The findings were a result of a research built using 286 critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and also found that men made up a large majority of cases in those facilities—73% of people there were male. It also showed that the median age was 61.
 
Prominent politicians, scientist, journalist and other people of significance in the U.K. have debated the merits of, at this stage, focusing only on why Covid-19 affects BAME groups disproportionately visa vis White people, saying that it could be counter productive, adding that the priority must be put on research and a greater understanding of the disease so that a cure can be found for everyone.
 
On a more day to day practical level, there are several reasons why Black people are critically ill with Covid-19, including the fact that disproportionately high numbers work for the NHS, where individuals would be at higher risk of exposure to the disease because of daily close contact with patients who might be carrying the disease. Data shows that 18.4% of NHS staff is made up of BAME people.
 
In the transport network in London more than a quarter of the workforce, who still operate a reduced service, are from minority backgrounds. These groups are in daily close quarter contact with thousands of people, making it highly probable that they could contract the virus.
 
CharitySoWhite, an organization that raises issues of racism and diversity within the charity sector, recently published a report on the racial inequality of the UK's Covid-19 response. It highlighted issues such as BAME families being unable to adhere to public guidance, as high proportions live in multi-generational households, particularly Black African and Bangladeshi groups who face serious issues of overcrowding.
 
"The outcomes we have seen are really concerning, for instance the figures coming out of Chicago on the toll coronavirus is having on the African American Community. We must do all that we can to prevent this happening in the UK," a CharitySoWhite organizing committee member said. "BAME groups remain over-represented in many of the 'at risk' communities identified by the government and are at greater risk of developing serious and long-term health conditions."
 
The NHS found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is linked to being overweight or a family history, is up to six times higher in certain Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups.
 
"This is concerning given the unequal access and treatment experienced by BAME communities that already exist within the UK health system," the spokesperson said. "We are concerned that pre existing beliefs and practices in some schools of medicine rooted in racism will be magnified during this period, leading to many BAME people with coronavirus not receiving access to timely and critical support."
 
The charity raised the case of Kayla Williams, a Black woman who died from a suspected case of Covid-19 after ringing emergency services and being told to look after herself. 
 
 

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