BAME people are up to 'FOUR TIMES more likely to have Covid-19'

Black, Asian and ethnic minority Britons are up to FOUR TIMES more likely to test positive for Covid-19 or have antibodies against the disease than white people, official data reveals

  • A government-run Covid-19 surveillance scheme tested 36,000 people in England between April and June
  • 4.5% of white people had antibodies against the coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics
  • In comparison, the rate was 12.2% for Asian Brits, 7.7% for black people, results from the new report revealed
  • Swab test results — which look for signs of current infection — found a similar discrepancy between ethnicity
  • Just 33% of people had any of the tell-tale Covid-19 symptoms on the day they received their test results

Black and Asian Britons are up to four times more likely to have had already fought off the coronavirus, official data today suggested.

A government-run Covid-19 surveillance scheme, which has tested 36,000 people across England, revealed 4.5 per cent of white people had developed antibodies — substances created by the immune system in response to specific pathogens.

In comparison, the rate was 12.2 per cent for Asian Brits, 7.7 per cent for black people and as high as 16.7 per cent for other ethnic groups, according to the report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Results of swab tests — which tell if someone is currently infected and not if they have had it in the past — showed a similar discrepancy between ethnicity, with between 0.64 and 0.69 per cent of black and Asian people ever testing positive for the coronavirus.

Just 0.30 per cent of white people swabbed between April 26 and June 27 tested positive for the disease, which has already killed 55,000 Brits since the outbreak spiralled out of control in February. 

Results also showed that the risk was nine times higher (2.69 per cent) for people of other ethnic groups, which included Arabs.

The ONS report also revealed just 33 per cent of people had any of the tell-tale Covid-19 symptoms, a cough, fever or loss of taste and smell, on the day they received their test results.

Statisticians today warned the findings do not prove for certain that people of BAME backgrounds are at greater risk of being infected. 

But they add to mountain of evidence that has found people of BAME backgrounds are more likely to catch Covid-19 and become seriously ill or die from it than white people.  

Experts say there is unlikely to be one sole reason as to why ethnic minorities are more likely to become severely ill or die from the virus.

People from ethnic minority backgrounds make up a large amount of the NHS workforce.

This exposes them to bigger loads of the virus more often because they come into face-to-face contact with gravely ill patients.

Having a high viral load – the number of particles of the virus someone is first infected with – gives the bug a ‘jump start’, scientists say.

Members of ethnic minority communities are twice as likely to be affected by poverty, and are often hit the hardest by chronic diseases.

Those living in poverty smoke and drink alcohol more and are more likely to be obese – all of which increase the likelihood of chronic health conditions.

Patients with pre-existing health troubles struggle to fight off COVID-19 before it causes deadly complications such as pneumonia.

People from poorer backgrounds are also more likely to use public transport more often and live in crowded houses – driving up their chance of catching and spreading the virus.

They could also be more at risk because of their professions, according to Shaomeng Jia, an economics professor at Alabama State University’s College of Business Administration.

Those working in retail, in supermarkets and in construction – who cannot work from home – were still mingling and risking infection even when the outbreak peaked, she said.

Scientists have yet to pin down exactly why minority groups are at a greater risk, which health chiefs last month claimed could be partly blamed on ‘historic racism’.

But they say it may be partly explained by the minority groups being more likely to live in deprived areas, work in low-paid jobs or use public transport, where they interact with more potential carriers of the disease.

However, academics say this cannot explain the whole story and increased rates of vitamin D deficiency among minorities are also being investigated as a possible risk factor.

The ONS wrote: ‘It is too early to say whether Covid-19 infection rates differ between ethnic groups because the number of people testing positive in groups other than the white ethnic group are very small.

‘Although antibody test results provide an indication that individuals identifying as white are less likely to have had Covid-19 in the past than non-white ethnic groups.’

It added that most of the tests were carried out in May, when the disease was ‘highly concentrated’ in London and other urban areas, which tend to have higher rates of BAME populations living there.      

The ONS gave a large range around the estimates because they were based on small samples, meaning the actual rate could be much higher or much lower. 

For example, nearly 33,000 of the people tested were white. Only six of 944 Asians who were swabbed had Covid-19, and only two out of 288 black Britons had the disease.  

Results also showed no difference in Covid-19 infection rates between genders or ages, suggesting that everyone is fundamentally at the same risk of being struck down.

However, data did reveal that people who had to leave their home to go to work were almost four times more likely to get infected with the virus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2.

Only 0.15 per cent of people in England who were able to work from home during the peak of the outbreak tested positive. By comparison, the rate was 0.56 per cent for people who didn’t.

‘Elementary occupations’ — such as cleaners, labourers and shelf-fillers — had the highest risk, with 1 per cent of such workers testing positive.

Around 0.82 per cent of process, plant and machine operatives tested positive, followed by 0.79 per cent of carers and 0.65 per cent of workers employed in sales and customer services. 

The ONS report also revealed a huge discrepancy in the rates of infection between NHS and social care workers, compared to the general population.

Just 0.27 per cent of non-healthcare workers swabbed positive for Covid-19. But the rate was six times higher (1.58 per cent) among medics and carers.  


Historic racism and hostility towards immigrants could be partly to blame for black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people being more likely to die from Covid-19, officials claimed last month.

Public Health England (PHE) published the long-awaited second part of its report into how the coronavirus has hit BAME communities harder.

It said ‘hostile environments’ towards immigrants may have affected settled BAME communities through ‘heightened prejudice’ and ‘societal tensions’ — but did not explain how this has directly raised the risk of Covid-19.

The report also claimed a lack of trust in the NHS may have left some BAME groups reluctant to seek help early on, potentially making their disease harder to treat. It said some people were ‘fearful of being deported’ if they presented to hospital.

And it claimed that BAME NHS staff may be less likely to speak up when they have concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE) or their risk.

The report – based on discussions with 4,000 people – noted that historic racism has meant non-white communities are generally poorer so have worse health, putting them at higher risk if they catch Covid-19.

Ethnic minority people — in particular those from black, Bangladeshi or Pakistani backgrounds — have for decades been more likely to have lower-paid jobs, leaving them with less money to live healthy lifestyles.

Inadequate PPE, not enough testing to curb outbreaks, not separating patients well enough and staff not following social distancing may all have been behind the spread in NHS settings, experts say. 

Data also showed infection rates are lower in one- and two-person households, which experts say is likely because they come into contact with less people — cutting their risk of being infected. 

The ONS report also revealed just 33 per cent of people had any of the tell-tale Covid-19 symptoms, a cough, fever or loss of taste and smell, on the day they received their test results. 

The ONS report is not the first to find Britons of BAME backgrounds are twice as likely to get infected with Covid-19.

Oxford University researchers last week revealed 14.7 per cent of NHS workers from ethnic minority backgrounds tested positive for the disease, compared to just 8.7 per cent who were white. 

It comes after a government review last month confirmed that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more likely to die from Covid-19.

The Public Health England (PHE) report revealed that Britons of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of white Brits of dying with the coronavirus.

And it showed black people, as well as those of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, or Caribbean backgrounds had between a 10 and 50 per cent higher risk of death. 

The analysis did not take into account higher rates of long-term health conditions among these people, which experts say probably account for some of the differences.

Evidence compiled in the report also revealed that age is the single biggest risk factor that determines how likely people are to die with the virus – those over the age of 80 are 70 times more likely to be killed than under-40s. 

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