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South Asian COVID-19 patients in UK hospitals 20% more likely to die: Study

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    Reuters

London   /   Sat, June 20, 2020   /   03:09 pm
South Asian COVID-19 patients in UK hospitals 20% more likely to die: Study Staff nurse Elia Sarno (L), wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask and a plastic apron as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, takes the temperature of patient Chay Godfrey in a bay on the A&E Emergency Department at Wexham Park Hospital, part of the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, near Slough, west of London on May 22, 2020. (AFP/Steve Parsons)

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients of South Asian ethnicity in Britain are 20 percent more likely to die from the disease than white people, a large-scale study said on Friday, the latest evidence that minority groups are disproportionately hit by the virus.

The preliminary results showed that hospitalized South Asians were 12 years younger on average and generally had fewer pre-existing conditions.

Although patients in the group were more likely to have diabetes, four-fifths of the increase in mortality was unexplained.

"South Asians have 20 percent increased risk of death. Part of that risk is explained by diabetes, but part of it is not," said Ewen Harrison, Professor of Surgery and Data Science at University of Edinburgh.

Explanations could be that more South Asians work in jobs where they would face a higher viral load, such as health and care, or genetic differences which made the group biologically more susceptible to the disease, but more work needed to be done, he told reporters.

Read also: Drive-in UK care home visits for socially distant times

Data from the Office for National Statistics on Friday supported the idea that ethnic minorities are more at risk from COVID-19, although whether it is because certain groups are more likely to contract it to start with, or are more susceptible to it, is still unclear.

Harrison said other ethnic minority groups did not have statistically significant higher chance of dying among patients in hospital in the study.

"We see higher rates of intensive care admission and have the need to go into ventilator in black and Asian and other minority ethnic groups, but that's not translated into an increased risk of death," he said.

He added that the study did not consider whether groups were more likely to catch the coronavirus to start with, which could explain higher death rates from COVID-19 among other minority groups.

The study used data from 260 hospitals and enrolled 34,986 patients, although the preliminary findings had not been peer-reviewed.