Black people are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people, finds study commissioned by Sadiq Khan

  • Numerous reports have shown that BAME communities are being hit harder 
  • Manchester University academics carried out the research for Sadiq Khan
  • They found black people were 1.9 times more likely to die from Covid-19

Black people are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people, according to a study that adds to growing evidence on the subject.

Numerous reports, including government-funded research, have shown people in black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) communities are being hit harder by the coronavirus.  

The latest review of evidence, commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, adds to the fire. 

Manchester University academics, who carried out the research, found black people were 1.9 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. They analysed the data from both local and national sources to make the conclusion.

And the effect was still found even when they took into account that non-white people tend to, on average, have worse health and living conditions. 

Experts believe BAME communities have been hit harder by Covid-19 because ethnic minorities are more likely to be poorer and therefore in worse health, and more likely to work in public-facing jobs — leaving them vulnerable to catching the illness. 

The new report for Mr Khan made the same two conclusions, and it pointed out that a disproportionate number of BAME people work in risky jobs in the NHS and care homes. It comes after a study last week concluded BAME people are not genetically more at risk, but face a greater danger because of their life circumstances.

Public Health England, which found a similar risk of death for BAME people in a long-awaited report published in June, warned historic racism and the hostility towards immigrants was partly to blame.    

The study into Covid-19 death rates in London found that black men face a 1.9 times higher risk of dying than white men, even when their differences in age, where they live, and their wealth and health are taken into account (yellow bars indicate the increased risk when all those factors except race are taken out of the equation)

When the data does not take into account the fact that non-white people are likely to be poorer and in worse general health, the difference in risk of death is considerably higher, reaching higher than a four-fold increase among black men and women

Public Health England previously found the mortality rate – the number of people dying with the coronavirus out of each 100,000 people – was considerably higher for black men than other groups. The risk for black women, people of Asian ethnicity, and mixed race people was also higher than for white people of either sex. The report warned the rate for the ‘Other’ category was ‘likely to be an overestimate’

A PHE report from July found that while white people make up a majority of Covid-19 hospital cases, they are more likely to be treated on normal wards with less severe infection. This graph shows that of admitted hospital cases, although most are white, BAME people are more than twice as likely to require treatment in ICU 

Mr Khan is urging the Government to tackle the inequalities which have led to Londoners experiencing a disproportionate impact of Covid-19. 

It comes as cases continue to rise in the capital, with a spokesperson for Mr Khan warning last week London was at a ‘very worrying tipping point’ and ‘immediate action’ was needed to regain control of the spread.

The report also discovered men were more likely to die from Covid-19, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

But women had experienced disproportionate economic, social and psychological impacts, it also concluded.

Academics pointed to data showing mothers are 47 per cent more likely to have lost or resigned from their jobs than fathers.

Among the report’s other revelations was that death rates for men in lower-paid, manual roles were three times higher than those in management, business and desk-based jobs.

Meanwhile, disabled Londoners have reported increased difficulties performing practical tasks such as shopping for groceries, as well as finding accessible, up-to-date health information about the virus.

Mr Khan is urging the Government to tackle the inequalities which have led to Londoners experiencing a disproportionate impact of Covid-19 after the independent report highlighted the uneven effect of the pandemic in relation to factors such as ethnicity and gender


Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) people are not genetically more at-risk of dying from Covid-19, a study concluded last week.

BAME communities are two to three times more likely to die from coronavirus than other members of the population, analysis of NHS data has previously revealed.

However, scientists in Japan and the US found no differences in seven genes associated with viral entry of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – across ethnic groups.

Pre-existing medical conditions and environmental factors are more likely to blame for people of ethnic minorities being more likely to die of the disease, they said.

The study also suggested a lack of London-focused, Covid-specific data was hindering efforts to assess the disease’s full impact on those with protected characteristics, and on the capital in general.

Mr Khan said the report proved Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on ‘disabled Londoners, people in areas of high deprivation and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds’.

‘It is simply not right for ministers to say they will do “whatever it takes” to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis but then stand by as whole sectors of our society find their lives and their livelihoods at risk,’ he said.

‘I urge ministers to invest in our communities and the organisations supporting those most at risk, to ensure that accessible health guidance is available to all and, as case numbers are rising again, that there is adequate support in place for those who’ve lost their jobs, had their hours cut or been forced to self-isolate.’

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Khan has been outspoken on the need for the Government to address the ‘structural problems’ in society which have led to BAME communities being disproportionately impacted by the virus.

When an ONS report released at the height of the pandemic suggested Covid-19 was adversely affecting BAME communities, Mr Khan said: ‘The Government cannot ignore the structural problems in our society that mean minority ethnic Londoners are more likely to work in lower paid jobs, live in overcrowded accommodation and suffer from underlying health conditions which put them at greater risk.’


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

A government-run surveillance scheme, which 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.

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

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

But they add to the 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.

Health chiefs launched a probe to investigate the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME Brits in April, prompted by a wave of evidence that showed white people were less likely to die from the disease.

Public Health England’s report, finally published in the summer, said historic racism and hostility towards immigrants could be partly to blame for the disparity.

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.

BAME people are more likely to have conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, PHE said, which make them more vulnerable to Covid-19. 

And they are more likely to work in risky jobs in which they spend time in contact with members of the public, increasing the chance of them catching the disease. 

Mr Hancock admitted that the report ‘exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation’ and his counterpart in the Labour Party, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, noted: ‘Covid thrives on inequalities’.

Ministers this summer gave scientists £4.3million to investigate why black and Asian people are more likely to die from Covid-19.

UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research funded six research projects to examine the link between coronavirus and ethnicity.


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.


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