London — A report released Tuesday by England's public health body says that people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the country are up to 50% more likely to die of the coronavirus than British white people, though it remains unclear why.
"It confirms that the impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them," the report said. The disease has alsoin the United States.
The report said that age remains the biggest risk factor, but if it is accounted for in the data, people of Bangladeshi descent are 50% more likely to die of COVID-19 than people from a white British background. People from other ethnic minority groups are between 10% and 50% more likely to die of the coronavirus.
The report didn't account for patients' occupations, or factors like obesity or other comorbidities, but stated that "other evidence has shown that when comorbidities are included, the difference in risk of death among hospitalised patients is greatly reduced."
Separately, the report said thatas security guards, carers, construction workers, taxi drivers or bus drivers are at higher risk of death from COVID-19, but this data couldn't be combined with the ethnicity data because of differences in the way it was recorded.
It also said that mortality rates were higher in men than women and in more deprived areas than less deprived areas, keeping in line with previous health trends. The data on ethnic minorities, however, differed from prior trends, because they had previously had lower mortality rates than people from white backgrounds.
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hanckock said that he felt a "deep responsibility, because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation," and that the public was "understandably angry about injustices."
"Black lives matter, as do those of the poorest areas of our country," Hancock said, adding that health outcomes needed to be "leveled up."
The head of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said comprehensive action on racial equality needed to be taken in response to the report.
"People are more than statistics, and we cannot afford to ignore the broader context of entrenched race inequality across all areas of life. Only a comprehensive race equality strategy will address these issues," she said.
Lawmaker David Lammy, from Britain's opposition Labour party, also said a quick response was needed. "Families are living in fear," he tweeted when the report was released. There must be no more delay. The government must take urgent action to protect at-risk groups."
The government on Monday denied media reports that it had delayed publishing the findings, which were due out in May, over concerns about potential civil unrest due to anger over inequality and the death of George Floyd.