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Second wave: mortality rate worsened for people of Bangladeshi background

Second wave: mortality rate worsened for people of Bangladeshi background
By Jess Hacker
27 May 2021

The rate of death involving Covid-19 during the second wave was five times higher for men from a Bangladeshi background compared to those from a white British background, new data has revealed.

Similarly, the rate of mortality was 4.1 times greater for women from a Bangladeshi background compared to women in the white British population.

This marked a significant increase from the first wave, when the rate of mortality was three times greater for males, and 1.9 times greater for females.

The dataset, published yesterday (26 May) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), was based on deaths occurring between 24 January 2020 (the date when the first Covid-19 case was reported in the UK) and 31 March 2021.

It also showed that the rate of death was 3.4 and 2.8 times higher for men and women from a Pakistani ethnic background during the second wave, compared to 2.2 times and two times during the first.

This comes after separate data revealed in May that vaccine uptake was lower among over-50s in all ethnic minority groups compared with the white British population, leading the BMA to claim the Government had ‘not done enough’ to gain the trust of local communities.

However, last month, NHS England reported that uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among Bangladeshi groups had increased five-fold from 29,382 to 152,408, while vaccination in Pakistani groups increased from 88,956 to 367,780.

First wave risk

Meanwhile, the ONS said that ‘whilst males and females of Black Caribbean and Black African background remained at elevated risk’ during the second wave, the relative risk compared to white British people was reduced compared with the first wave.

During the first wave, the rate was highest for the Black African men and women, at 3.7 times for men and 2.6 times for women. This rate fell slightly to 2.2 times for men and 1.6 times for men and women during the second wave.

Similarly, the mortality rate for Black Caribbean men and women was 2.7 times and 1.8 times, respectively. This fell to 1.7 times for men, and 1.4 times for women.

Action needed

Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said that although the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 narrowed in the second wave, particularly among Black groups, its ‘devastating impact on many ethnic minority communities persists’.

‘In particular, people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups – who are more likely to live in higher-density, multi-generational households where infection can spread more readily – were disproportionately affected in the second wave,’ she said.

Vaccine uptake measures must be strengthened – including through engagement with local communities and by increasing the availability of services near peoples’ homes and workplaces – to address the risk of lower uptake among ethnic minority communities, she added.

Mehrunisha Suleman, Senior Research Fellow at the Health Foundation, said that as the country begins to recover from the pandemic, the Government must address ‘the ways in which racial discrimination and economic disadvantage have disproportionately impacted these communities’.

She said: ‘While the speed of the vaccine roll-out is encouraging, we need to ensure all communities have confidence in and can easily access vaccines, particularly in the South Asian community where mortality was higher in the second wave.’

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