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Covid-19 in Hertfordshire: County council investigation reveals BAME residents account for one in five cases despite making up only one in eight of the population

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The impact of the coronavirus crisis on Hertfordshire's 150,000 BAME residents has been investigated by the county council.

People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities account for around one in eight of Hertfordshire's population of almost 1.2 million – but made up one in five of the county's 73,811 cases of Covid-19 in the year to February 25.

Since the start of the pandemic, around one in every 12 people of Pakistani ethnicity in the county has been infected with Covid – compared with one in 33 white residents.

The pandemic has exposed and emphasised inequalities that existed in the community before Covid-19 emerged.

Members of Hertfordshire County Council's public health and prevention cabinet panel were told in a report: "Deprivation, ethnicity, housing, income, age, sex and occupation have all been shown to have an impact on not only contracting the disease but also having poorer outcomes.

"In particular, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have been found to have been the worst affected by Covid compared to those of white ethnicity.

"It is clear that ethnicity in itself is not necessarily the main driver, but rather the combination of other factors that are prevalent within ethnic groups that are exerting inequalities.

"Firstly, occupational risk has been shown to have played a key part in driving infection, particularly in the first lockdown period. Occupations classed as critical which continued during lockdowns were often staffed by a higher proportion of those of BAME backgrounds, such as healthcare workers, taxi drivers and security guards."

The study revealed that BAME people are more likely to live in overcrowded and multi-generational households, making it harder to self-isolate and shield from infection.

Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease, which have been shown to be associated with higher Covid-19 mortality rates, are also prevalent in BAME communities.

According to data released on February 17 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), only 55 (4.84%) of the 1,135 people in East Herts who have signed up to take part in Covid-19 vaccination research are non-white. This proportion is lower than for Hertfordshire as a whole – 9.31% (740 out of 7,940) – and the national average of 7.3%.

In East Herts only 35 people in the "Asian or Asian British" and 20 in the "Mixed or multiple ethnic groups" categories are registered. No one in the "Black, African, Black British or Caribbean" category is registered in East Herts and only 30 people in the whole of Hertfordshire are.

To register, see https://www.nhs.uk/sign-up-to-be-contacted-for-research.

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