In the early days of the pandemic, as the number of daily reported deaths continued to rise, it soon became clear that doctors and nurses on the front line were amongst the victims. It was shocking. As each death was announced, it was obvious from their pictures that the majority of doctors were from an Asian background.
Numbers of current healthcare worker deaths are hard to come by, but as of 25th May, the number who have died due to Covid-19 has reached 200, according to a Guardian count, with more than six in 10 of the victims were from BAME backgrounds. Analysis looking at staff in hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and other settings found that 122 of the dead, or 61% of the total, were from an ethnic minority background. That number is now reported to be over 300 according to Piers Morgan og Good Morning TV this morning.
Of those staff whose backgrounds could be identified, Asian workers accounted for 34% of the overall death toll, black staff 24% and white workers 36%, while the rest were unknown. Clearly, healthcare workers do not sign up to battle on the front line to give up their lives. BAME workers have not being protected enough. “Whether there are too many on the front line or not enough investigation into genetic factors that make them more vulnerable – not enough is being done.
There have been a number of reviews into deaths from Covid-19, including by Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics, which have now concluded that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately dying from the virus. Among the reasons for this are existing health inequalities, public-facing occupations and structural racism. “It is not necessarily because of their ethnicity, it may be related to their occupation or other reasons why they might be at higher levels of exposure,” Professor John Newton said at a press conference relating to the report by Public Health England.
There is a theory that front line workers in all settings are more likely to have repeat contacts with carriers of covid-19, and therefore build up a higher “viral load” than a single contact. Other front line workers have experienced high death rates including bus drivers and security guards, and many of these come from BAME backgrounds.
There were at least 3,876 deaths of BAME individuals in hospitals in England up to 9 June. This means that BAME people represented 15.5% of all coronavirus deaths up to this point. Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that deaths of black Africans from the virus are 3.7 times higher than might be expected by geography and age, while the risk for Pakistanis is 2.9 times higher and for black Caribbean people it is 1.8 times higher.
NHS England’s letter to hospitals, CCGs and community pharmacists on 24 June states: “All employers need to make significant progress in deploying risk assessments within the next two weeks and complete them – at least for all staff in at-risk groups – within four weeks.” Click BBC article
Whether or not death rates of people from BAME backgrounds is as high in their countries of origin. As reported awhile ago, rates in Africa remain relatively low, although are rising in South Africa. I will do some research and post later.