Islamic Lifestyle

South Asians, Muslims at higher risk of COVID-19 in U.K.

Published 19 Jun,2020 via Bloomberg News Service (Asia Edition) - South Asian Covid-19 patients are more likely to die once hospitalized than other ethnic groups, while Muslims and Jews are more at risk from the virus than Christians, large-scale studies found.

Data from 34,986 Covid-19 patients in England and Wales treated at 260 hospitals showed no difference between ethnicities in the early stages of the disease. While Blacks faced the highest mortality rates, minorities of all backgrounds were more likely than Whites to require critical care and ventilator treatment once in the hospital, according to the study by the Office for National Statistics.

After hospitalization, South Asian patients were 20% more likely to die than other ethnic groups -- a finding only partly explained by higher rates of preexisting diabetes.

The ONS found that socioeconomic factors contributed to the higher risk and “simply reveals that the circumstances in which ethnic minorities live is the major contributor to their increased risk, rather than any genetic disposition,” said Professor David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge.

In a separate study looking at religion in England and Wales, researchers found Muslims were the most at-risk faith, with 198.9 deaths per 100,000 males and 98.2 fatalities per 100,000 females. Jews, Hindus and Sikhs also showed higher mortality rate.

When adjusted for region, population density and socio-demographic and household characteristics, Jews seemed to face higher risk. Jewish males were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as Christians. People who reported having no religion had the lowest death rates, the study showed.

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The ethnicity study is particularly relevant in the U.K. where people from South Asia, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, make up a higher proportion of health-care workers than in the general population. South Asians account for more than 5% of the U.K. population, government data show, while 10% of the National Health Service workers are of non-Chinese Asian ethnicity, the largest percentage after white people.

The ethnicity study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was published as the U.K. grapples with a Covid-19 death toll of more than 42,000, the third-highest in the world.

A third study released by ONS showed that men in England and Wales who were “limited a lot” by a disability were more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19, while the ratio was about four times for women.

(Updates with religion study in fifth paragraph.)

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Adam Blenford