HEALTH secretary Matt Hancock has insisted ‘black lives matter’ as he published a new review that found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19.
The study, from Public Health England (PHE), looked at the risk factors for coronavirus and found BAME individuals have a much higher risk of death than white people, as do those from poorer backgrounds, men and anyone who is obese or suffering from diabetes.
Mr Hancock (above) told the Commons the evidence showed that coronavirus targeted people in an ‘unequal and disproportionate way’.
He said: ‘Black lives matter, as do those of the poorest areas of our country, which have worse health outcomes, and we need to make sure all of these considerations are taken into account and action is taken to level up the health outcomes of people across this country.
‘Because there’s no more important levelling-up than the levelling-up of your life expectancy and the quality of health with which you live that life.’
Mr Hancock said the Covid-19 epidemic had shown ‘huge disparities’ across the nation, depending on ethnicity and factors such as social deprivation.
‘People are understandably angry about injustices and as health secretary I feel a deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation,’ he said.
‘This work underlines that being black or from a minority ethnic background is a major risk factor.’
The PHE report showed that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity have around twice the risk of death as those who are white British.
Those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity have between a ten per cent and 50 per cent higher risk of death when compared with white British.
Meanwhile, the highest diagnosis Covid-19 rates per 100,000 population are in black people (486 females and 649 males), and are lowest in white people (220 in females and 224 in males).
Compared with previous years, deaths from all causes are now almost four times higher than expected among black males, almost three times higher in Asian males and almost two times higher in white males.
Among females, deaths were almost three times higher in black, mixed and other females, and 2.4 times higher in Asian females, compared with 1.6 times in white females.
The study said the ‘relationship between ethnicity and health is complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors’.
For example, BAME people are likely to be at increased risk of acquiring the infection due to the fact that they are more likely to live in urban areas, in overcrowded households, in deprived areas, and have jobs that expose them to higher risk, the study said.
BAME communities are also likely to be at increased risk of poorer outcomes once they contract Covid-19.
The study said some of this was due to underlying health issues, with people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani background having higher rates of cardiovascular disease than those who are white British.
Black Caribbean and Black African people also have higher rates of blood pressure, while Type 2 diabetes, which has obesity as its main driver, is more common in BAME individuals.
The study found that men working as security guards, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, bus and coach drivers, chefs, sales and retail assistants, lower-skilled workers in construction and processing plants, and men and women working in social care, had significantly high rates of death from Covid-19.
Men of working age are also twice as likely to die as women, while when compared with those under 40, those who are 80 or older are 70 times more likely to die.
Compared with people under 40, the probability of death is about three times higher among those aged 40 to 49, nine times higher if 50 to 59, 27 times higher among those aged 60 to 69 and 50 times higher if 70 to 79.
Obesity and conditions such as Type 2 diabetes also increase the risk of dying from Covid-19, regardless of ethnicity.
PHE cited one study that included data from 17million adults showing that, compared with those who were not obese, obese people were 27 per cent more likely to die, rising to almost two-and-a-half times if they were morbidly obese.
■ The government believes the two-metre social distancing rule should remain in place, No.10 has said.
■ The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) — the body tasked with assessing the Covid-19 alert level — has ‘begun operating’, the government confirmed.
■ Professor Neil Ferguson, who quit as a government adviser last month, said the UK’s high death rate was partly because its epidemic began much earlier than scientists had predicted.
It comes as quarantine-free travel between Britain and some countries could be introduced at the end of this month if infection rates at home and abroad are sufficiently low.
The government is understood to be considering so-called ‘air bridges’ to enable people to travel without having to spend two weeks self-isolating on their return.
Current plans mean all international arrivals — apart from people carrying out a limited number of specified roles — would need to quarantine for 14 days from Monday.
But the new rules — expected to be set out tomorrow — will allow people to leave their place of isolation for a number of reasons, including shopping for food.
The plan has been fiercely criticised by travel and hospitality businesses.
In other developments, MPs return to Westminster after the government dropped virtual proceedings, despite concerns that shielding politicians would be unable to attend.
The government has tabled a motion preventing the resumption of virtual voting that allowed MPs to have their say from afar during the pandemic, but opposition parties are seeking to retain it.