South Asian people are the most likely group to die from COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital across the UK, according to a new study.


Data from 30,693 people admitted to 260 hospitals found a 19 per cent increased risk of death with coronavirus for South Asian people compared with white people.

Experts behind the study said 40 per cent of the South Asian people in the group had diabetes – which was a “significant factor” in their increased risk of death.

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The data was taken from hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales from February 6 to May 8, with patient follow-up to May 22.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, included 1,388 people of South Asian background (5 per cent of the total group), 266 East Asian people (1 per cent), 1,094 black people (4 per cent), 2,398 who were from another ethnic minority (8 per cent) and 25,547 white people (83 per cent).

People from ethnic minority backgrounds were younger and more likely to have diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) but had fewer other underlying health conditions such as chronic heart disease or dementia than white people. No difference was seen between ethnic groups when it came to the severity of illness on admission to hospital.

South Asian people were 28 per cent more likely to be admitted to critical care, as were black people (36 per cent increased risk), compared with white people, the study found. This held true even when age, sex and place of admission were taken into account, and the impact of deprivation.

The results showed that South Asian people were 19 per cent more likely to die with coronavirus, while black people were 5 per cent more likely to die, and people from other ethnic minority backgrounds had no higher risk compared with white people.

The researchers, from the University of Edinburgh, concluded: “Ethnic minorities in hospital with COVID-19 were more likely to be admitted to critical care and receive IMV (ventilation) than whites, despite similar disease severity on admission, similar duration of symptoms, and being younger with fewer comorbidities.

“South Asians are at greater risk of dying, due at least in part to a higher prevalence of pre-existing diabetes.”

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Dr Ewen Harrison, professor of surgery and data science at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “South Asian people look very different in hospital to other groups, in particular, white people.

“They’re younger, 12 years younger on average, less likely to have pre-existing conditions such as lung disease, dementia or obesity but much more likely to have diabetes.


“In fact 40 per cent of the South Asians in hospital with COVID-19 have diabetes, we think this is quite a significant contributor to their increased likelihood of death.”

How can I protect myself from the coronavirus when shopping?

You’ll have seen signs in your local supermarket advising you to keep two metres from others while moving around the store. This is key to reducing your chances of catching the virus while shopping.

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is spread through respiratory droplets that leave our mouth and nose when we cough, sneeze, or sometimes even talk. The droplets sprayed out by an infected person will contain the virus, which could then enter your body via your mouth, nose or eyes (this is why you shouldn’t be touching your face).

Respiratory droplets don’t usually travel more than one metre, so by keeping two metres from others, you’ll reduce the likelihood of being in the firing line. To make it easier to keep your distance, try to shop during off-peak hours, choose a store that’s limiting the number of people who can be inside at any one time, and use self-checkout if you can.

Keeping your hands clean is the other main thing you can do. If possible, wipe the trolley or basket handles with a disinfectant wipe when you arrive at the store. When you get home, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before and after unpacking your bags.

A US study found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on hard, shiny surfaces such as plastic, so wiping down your purchases with a disinfectant spray or a soapy cloth before you put them away is another good habit to get into.

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Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.