A new report by Public Health England (PHE) has found that people from black and asian ethnic groups are up to twice as likely to die with Covid-19 than those from white British backgrounds.
The report confirmed that the highest cases of Covid-19 were in people of black ethnic groups (486 females and 649 males per 100,000 population) and the lowest in white ethnic groups (220 in females and 224 in males).
It also confirmed age remains the biggest risk factor, while being male is another.
The report said “Comparing to previous years, all cause mortality was almost four times higher than expected among Black males for this period, almost three times higher in Asian males and almost two times higher in white males”.
However, the report fails to explain why the virus is having a “disproportionate” impact on BAME communities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “much more work” needed to be done to understand “what’s driving these disparities”.
He told the House of Commons that the public was “understandably angry about injustices” and that he felt a “deep responsibility because this pandemic has exposed huge disparities in the health of our nation”.
Mr Hancock added: “Black lives matter, as do those of the poorest areas of our country which have worse health outcomes and we need to make sure all of these considerations are taken into account, and action is taken to level-up the health outcomes of people across this country.”
“We are absolutely determined to get to the bottom of this and find ways of closing this gap” he said, adding that he has asked equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to continue working on the issue alongside Public Health England.”
The government has been criticised for failing to offer specific recommendations for BAME communities to help protect themselves.
Critics have also said that the PHE report restated what is already widely known about the effect of COVID-19 on those from ethnic minorities.
Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “This review confirms what we already knew – that racial and health inequalities amplify the risks of COVID-19.”
She added: “But when it comes to the question of how we reduce these disparities, it is notably silent. It presents no recommendations. Having the information is a start – but now is the time for action.”
The Equality Watchdog says the government should produce a “comprehensive race equality strategy” in response to the report.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “People are more than statistics, and we cannot afford to ignore the broader context of entrenched race inequality across all areas of life. Only a comprehensive race equality strategy will address these issues.”