BAME Communities & COVID-19: Why this cannot be ignored

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

The coronavirus does not discriminate between individuals. It can affect anyone and no one is immune from its impact. However, recent data suggests that the severity of the COVID-19 infection amongst the Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) population is disproportionate.

What is the problem?

  • The first 10 doctors to die in the UK from COVID-19 were all BAME. 70% of the 54 front line healthcare workers that have died in the UK because of COVID-19, were BAME. These numbers worsen on a daily basis. According to the 2011 census, just 14% of the UK population are from BAME backgrounds.

What could be the reasons?

Several reasons could be underpinning this, but we know that Coronavirus has amplified the racial and economic disparities that still sadly exist in our world today.

The Science

It is widely known that certain diseases are more prevalent in particular ethnic groups. Although the precise mechanisms are unclear, it is likely that genetics play a huge part. For example, people from Afro-Caribbean or Asian descent are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and diabetes than their European counterparts. Two conditions that have been shown to be associated with more severe outcomes from COVID-19. Although the direction of cause and effect is yet to be determined, many healthcare professionals attribute the racial disparity of COVID-19 deaths to this reason. Additionally, the biopsychosocial effects of racism may lead to high levels of stress, which is a known risk factor of hypertension and as a result, cardiovascular disease. This suggests that the increased prevalence amongst the BAME community may be the result of a complex interaction between genetics and environmental factors; wherein a genetic component is further exacerbated by social stressors. There may indeed be genetic differences or factors of genetic susceptibility, however this disproportionality is occurring across different ethnic groups; making a genetic cause less likely. This highlights the pressing need for further research before any solid conclusions can be made. Nonetheless, we must not forget that the overwhelming determinants of health are socially created.