UK scientists to examine virus link with ethnicity

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LONDON: UK scientists are to receive millions of pounds of government funding for a raft of studies to learn why people from an ethnic minority background are at greater risk from Covid-19.

Six projects will analyse data on social circumstances, health and day-to-day activities, as well as investigating genetic risk factors.

Prof Kamlesh Khunti

One will follow 30,000 health and social-care staff for a year. Researchers say there will be rapid action based on the findings.

Prof Kamlesh Khunti, director of the Centre for BME Health at the University of Leicester, who is involved in three of the studies, told BBC News he expected results to be translated into guidance that would help save black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lives within months.

“We will definitely get answers to the things that are putting people at much higher risk,” he said. “As soon as we get results that might make a difference, it is important that we get them out straight away.”

The results will also be shared with the leaders of black and South Asian communities, professional bodies and health regulators who will take rapid action, said Prof Khunti.

“If we find that living in crowded, multi-generational housing, not getting enough physical activity, are high on the list of factors associated with certain communities dying from Covid, we can look at the evidence and transform them into the most culturally appropriate messages.”

Emerging evidence shows people from ethnic minorities are significantly more likely to die from Covid-19 than the white population. But no-one knows exactly why ethnic groups are more vulnerable, though there are a number of ideas about why people from BAME backgrounds have been harder hit.