Covid is still killing disproportionately higher numbers of men and ethnic minority people – Dr Gwenetta Curry

Since Covid arrived in the UK, the disproportionate number of deaths of ethnic minority populations has remained constant.

And while these racial disparities no longer get much attention in the media, it is important to remember every group does not have the same experience.

Another story that has remained largely hidden from the headlines is the disproportionate number of men who have died, compared to women.

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This is important to recognise even though the overall Covid death rate has dropped tremendously, as a result of the increase in vaccinations and advanced medical treatments.

On May 3, there were 1,076 new cases and ten deaths reported across Scotland, which is a far cry from the numbers we experienced a couple of months ago.

In Scotland, you no longer have to wear a mask indoors or self-isolate if you test positive for the virus. Similar situations in many countries have led them to relax their travel restrictions and guidelines.

But there is still a risk.

In the US, twice as many men as women have died and 69 per cent of Covid deaths in Western Europe have been male. Globally, men make up a higher share of intensive care admissions (68 per cent) and deaths (57 per cent), but addressing this disparity has not been a priority.

Men and ethnic minority populations have suffered higher rates of death from Covid than the general population (Picture: Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

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Men are overrepresented in occupations that do not allow for them to have time off or adequately isolate to protect themselves from the virus.

For example, the transportation sector is a male-dominated area and last year bus drivers across the UK expressed their concerns about the lack of protection measures in place to prevent them from contracting the virus. Bus drivers in London complained about unclean facilities and how hard it is to remain socially distant in their depots.

When it comes to addressing issues that men experience, there isn’t the same level of concern as when women are affected.

There has been research showing that childcare duties overwhelmingly fell on the mothers, which had a major impact on their ability to return to working in the office as well as creating challenges when working from home.

But there have not been any studies or funding for efforts to focus on the health of men during the pandemic. UK academic journals have been reluctant to publish articles focusing on the disproportionate number of deaths of Black men from Covid. Unpublished research by Professor Tommy Curry and myself has argued this is a public health crisis that exacerbates racial disparities nationally.

Not only have men been disproportionately impacted by Covid but ethnic-minority men have experienced some of the highest death rates. Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Black Caribbean males have had the highest rates of mortality compared to white males; at 2.7, 2.2 and 1.6 times respectively.

More work needs to be done to better understand why men have much higher rates of mortality and what can be done to reduce the gap. The impact of Covid on population health outcomes will continue to be felt for years.

During the “live with it” stage of the pandemic, it will continue to be important to track the patterns and prevalence of the virus in the population and how ethnic-minority populations remain the most vulnerable.

Dr Gwenetta Curry is an Edinburgh University lecturer on race, ethnicity and health


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