People from Black and Asian backgrounds are at substantially greater risk of contracting coronavirus than white people, according to a study that highlights the disproportionate impact of the disease on different groups in society.
Black people are twice as likely to become infected with coronavirus as white people, and people from Asian backgrounds are one and a half times as likely, researchers found after analysing 50 studies that reported on the medical records of nearly 19 million Covid patients.
The analysis, published in the journal EClinicalMedicine by the Lancet, is the first comprehensive, systematic review of published research and preliminary papers that delve into the burden of coronavirus on different ethnic groups. About half of the papers have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and the rest are preliminary findings.
Beyond the raised risk of infection, the review suggests people from Asian backgrounds are more likely to be admitted to intensive care and may have a greater risk of death with coronavirus than white people. But the researchers cautioned that none of the studies on intensive care admissions had been peer-reviewed and that the increased risk of death was only borderline statistically significant.
Manish Pareek, an associate clinical professor in infectious diseases at the University of Leicester, said the combined message from the studies was that the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on Black and Asian people was driven by the higher risk of infection in those communities.
Pareek said the findings exposed an urgent need for more targeted public messaging to help people reduce their risk of infection and encourage them to get medical help early on before they become too poorly. “It’s about trying to make sure interventions are available early on, so people can seek advice and care at early time points,” he said.
The research team screened 1,500 published articles and preprints before focusing their analysis on 50 papers produced in the US and the UK. The studies appeared between 1 December 2019 and 31 August this year. The patients with Covid either had a positive swab for the virus or had clinical signs and symptoms of the infection.
Last month a report from the Office for National Statistics said men from black African backgrounds in England and Wales are nearly three times more likely to die from Covid than white men. Women from black Caribbean backgrounds were nearly twice as likely to die as white women. The ONS study concluded that living arrangements and jobs were the main drivers for the increased death rates, rather than pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.