Review to track ethnicity in COVID-19 cases

  • Date: 29 April 2020

A GOVERNMENT review into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities must be informed by real-time data collection, says the BMA.

The review by Public Health England comes after data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found that 34 per cent of critically ill coronavirus patients identified as black, Asian or minority ethnic. This despite BAME people making up only 14 per cent of the population in England and Wales.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said: "It’s critical that we find out which groups are most at risk so we can help to protect them. Three things are clear, and ethnicity is less clear. The three things that are clear are age, people who’ve got more than one other disease, and male sex. Being a member of an ethnic minority group is less clear."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented: "We are pleased that the Government has heeded the BMA’s call for this review. However, if the review is to have any meaningful impact, it needs to be informed with real-time data to understand why and how this deadly virus can have such a tragic disproportionate toll on our BAME communities and healthcare workers. This must include daily updates on ethnicity, circumstance and all protected characteristics of all patients in hospital as well as levels of illness in the community, which is not currently recorded.

"It also means taking vital steps now to protect our BAME communities until we can develop a detailed understanding of the threats they face. This could include that those at greatest risk, including older and retired doctors, are not working in potentially infectious settings."

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