The Stream

Why is coronavirus killing BAME Britons?

UK public health inquiry explores whether discrimination is partly to blame.

On Monday, 1 June at 19:30GMT:
Ethnic minorities make up less than 20 percent of the UK population but the outsized impact of coronavirus on their communities is startling.

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics black people are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people. Ethnic Bangladeshi and Pakistani men are 1.8 times more likely to have a COVID-19-related death than white males. And ethnic minority women are 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus. 

The impact on frontline workers is similarly stark. Almost 100 black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) medical staff are now known to have died from COVID-19. 

Under growing political pressure, the British government and National Health Service have launched a public health inquiry with initial findings due at the end of May. The opposition Labour party has begun an independent investigation of its own. 

Research available so far suggests several factors are driving the high infection rates and death toll in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups – bigger households, higher rates of comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease, large numbers of BAME workers in frontline services, and a lack of information in community languages.

Some scientists are examining whether a genetic component, alongside the other risk factors, may also predispose BAME populations to complications from COVID-19.

In this episode of The Stream, we look into the numbers and meet BAME community members to ask why the pandemic is having such a devastating impact on them.

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Dr. Frank Chinegwundoh, @frankthedoc1
Consultant Urological Surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust 

Dr. Shikta Das, @shikta_das
Senior Research Fellow in Epidemiology, University College London

Patrick Vernon, @ppvernon 
Social commentator and Windrush campaigner

Read more:
UK: Black Africans dying at much higher rate than white Britons – Al Jazeera
Third of critically ill COVID-19 UK patients from BME backgrounds – Al Jazeera