Medical workers take in patients at a special coronavirus intake area at Maimonides Medical Center on April 06 in New York City.
  • Black people are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 as white people, according to the largest analysis of its kind including more than 18 million people in the US and UK. 
  • Asian people are about 1.5 times as likely to get the illness, and may be more likely to be admitted to the ICU and die, the study also found. 
  • The results underscore long-reported racial disparities in coronavirus cases, severity, and death, which could be due to household arrangements, frontline work, and access to healthcare. 
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Black people in the UK and US are twice as likely as white people to contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a first-of-its kind analysis.

The study, published Thursday in the journal EClinical Medicine, also found Asian people were 1.5 times as likely as white people to get the disease, and were slightly more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or die. 

The findings underscore previous findings showing that systemic inequalities make people of colour more vulnerable to COVID-19, and more likely to experience serious illness if they do get sick.

"The clear evidence of increased risk of infection amongst ethnic minority groups is of urgent public health importance," Dr. Shirley Sze, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) academic clinical lecturer and a lead author of the paper, said. 

"We must work to minimize exposure to the virus in these at-risk groups by facilitating their timely access to healthcare resources and target the social and structural disparities that contribute to health inequalities."

The study included more than 18 million people 

To conduct the meta-analysis, researchers at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham, who were supported by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, pooled data from 42 research articles out the US and eight from the UK that studied the effect of ethnicity on clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19. 

Twenty-six of the studies were peer-reviewed; the others were pre-prints waiting for review. In total, more than 18 million people were included in the analysis. 

The study authors found that Black participants were about twice as likely as white participants to contract COVID-19 and that Asian people were about 1.5 times as likely. 

While Asian participants seemed to be more likely to be admitted into the ICU and to die, that finding wasn't very strong. The studies that examined the finding also weren't peer-reviewed.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, data has shown that communities of colour are at disproportionate risk of COVID-19. Specifically, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native populations are at increased risk for cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. Pregnant people of colour are also disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. 

The researchers say there are many factors that could help explain the results, including that ethnic minorities may be more likely to live in crowded households with multiple generations, to have frontline jobs that can't be done from home, and to have less access to healthcare.

Crises, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in April, "ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society," including racial disparities. 

Marian Knight, the lead author of a UK study that found more than half of pregnant women admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 were black or from other minority ethnic groups, previously told Insider more research talking to women about their experiences is "urgently needed."

Understanding the roots of these disparities is difficult and will likely vary between minority groups, "but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying to tackle it," she said. 

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