“Nearly All the Doctors Who Have Died of Covid-19 in the UK Have Been Ethnic Minorities”

It’s an interesting data point. I touched on it while writing about immigrant workers in Swedish nursing homes.

In early April, some medical experts estimated that Somalis represented 40% of the coronavirus deaths in Stockholm and 18% of the death toll in Sweden. That may be because of Stockholm’s first 15 coronavirus deaths, 6 of those who died were Somalis. The Somalis have been followed by Iraqis, Syrians, and Afghans as being significantly overrepresented among the ranks of coronavirus cases.

In early April, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health revealed that immigrants made up 1 in 5 cases of the virus and that 1 in 100 Somalis in Norway had tested positive for the virus. A week later, it was 1 in 4. Somalis made up 6% of confirmed cases. And in Helsinki, Finland, Somalis accounted for 17% of cases.

The coronavirus is a recent phenomenon and we don’t have all the answers as to why some groups appear to be more vulnerable to it than others. Researchers have proposed varying explanations for Somali vulnerability from ethnic benign neutropenia, to low vitamin D levels, dense living conditions, intergenerational households, high rates of smoking, and poor language skills.

And now some data points from the UK.

Nearly all the doctors who have died of covid-19 in the United Kingdom have been ethnic minorities, most born overseas, like el-Tayar, according to the British Medical Association.

That grim toll has confounded health experts, alarmed minority physicians, and startled a nation that relies on immigrants to swell the ranks of its public health-care system 

Relying on them might not be a good idea, especially considering the rate of coronavirus infections in hospitals which may be as high as 1 in 5.

An estimated 44 percent of doctors in Britain are from ethnic minority backgrounds, significantly higher than the 13 percent in the population at large. Last year, more than half the new doctors who registered in Britain were born overseas.

But experts say it’s still baffling that 93 percent of the doctors who have died of covid-19 were ethnic minorities.

It is baffling. It shows that there’s still plenty we don’t know about the virus. 

People of African and Middle Eastern origin do appear to be more susceptible to the disease. Some of the doctors in question however were from Pakistan and India.

According to a Guardian newspaper analysis, more than 180 health workers have died of covid-19, the majority of them ethnic minorities. Another analysis of 106 National Health Service deaths found that two-thirds were among ethnic minorities.

These numbers are striking. And looking deeper into what they mean would be more helpful if the media didn’t, as usual, pivot to false claims of racism.

The NHS numbers do seem to show a high rate of Asian deaths among NHS workers. Unlike the US, this is more likely to mean Pakistani. Health care workers born in the Philippines however seemed to have the highest death rate.


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