COVID-19 – Review of who was/is at most risk

The Government has published the following review of data on disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID19. Below is the detailed summary of the review.
View Full Report: Disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19

This review presents findings based on surveillance data available to PHE at the time of its publication, including through linkage to broader health data sets. It confirms that the impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, has increased them. These results improve our understanding of the pandemic and will help in formulating the future public health response to it.

The largest disparity found was by age. Among people already diagnosed with COVID19, people who were 80 or older were seventy times more likely to die than those under 40. Risk of dying among those diagnosed with COVID-19 was also higher in males than females; higher in those living in the more deprived areas than those living in the least deprived; and higher in those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than in White ethnic groups. These inequalities largely replicate existing inequalities in mortality rates in previous years, except for BAME groups, as mortality was previously higher in White ethnic groups. These analyses take into account age, sex, deprivation, region and ethnicity, but they do not take into account the existence of comorbidities, which are strongly associated with the risk of death from COVID-19 and are likely to explain some of the differences.

When compared to previous years, we also found a particularly high increase in all cause deaths among those born outside the UK and Ireland; those in a range of caring occupations including social care and nursing auxiliaries and assistants; those who drive passengers in road vehicles for a living including taxi and minicab drivers and chauffeurs; those working as security guards and related occupations; and those in care homes. These analyses do not take into account the existence of comorbidities, which are strongly associated with the risk of death from COVID-19 and could explain some of these differences.

When this data was analysed, the majority of testing had been offered to those in hospital with a medical need. Confirmed cases therefore represent the population of people with severe disease, rather than all of those who get infected. This is important because disparities between diagnoses rates may reflect differences in the risk of getting the infection, in presenting to hospital with a medical need and in the likelihood of being tested.

Some analyses outlined in this review are provisional and will continue to be improved. Further work is planned to obtain, link and analyse data that will complement these analyses.

The results of this review need to be widely discussed and considered by all those involved in and concerned with the national and local response to COVID-19. However, it is already clear that relevant guidance, certain aspects of recording and reporting of data, and key policies should be adapted to recognise and wherever possible mitigate or reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the population groups that are shown in this review to be more affected by the infection and its adverse outcomes.

As the numbers of new COVID-19 cases decrease, monitoring the infection among those most at risk will become increasingly important. It seems likely that it will be difficult to control the spread of COVID-19 unless these inequalities can be addressed.

Age and sex
COVID-19 diagnosis rates increased with age for both males and females. When compared to all cause mortality in previous years, deaths from COVID-19 have a slightly older age distribution, particularly for males.

Working age males diagnosed with COVID-19 were twice as likely to die as females. Among people with a positive test, when compared with those under 40, those who were 80 or older were seventy times more likely to die. These are the largest disparities found in this analysis and are consistent with what has been previously reported in the UK.

These disparities exist after taking ethnicity, deprivation and region into account, but they do not account for the effect of comorbidities or occupation, which may explain some of the differences.

The regional pattern in diagnoses rates and death rates in confirmed cases among males were similar. London had the highest rates followed by the North West, the North East and the West Midlands. The South West had the lowest. For females the North East and the North West had higher diagnosis rates than London, while London had the highest death rate.

Local authorities with the highest diagnoses and death rates are mostly urban. Death rates in London from COVID-19 were more than three times higher than in the region with the lowest rates, the South West. This level of inequality between regions is much greater than the inequalities in all cause mortality rates in previous years.

People who live in deprived areas have higher diagnosis rates and death rates than those living in less deprived areas. The mortality rates from COVID-19 in the most deprived areas were more than double the least deprived areas, for both males and females. This is greater than the inequality seen in mortality rates in previous years, indicating greater inequality in death rates from COVID-19.

High diagnosis rates may be due to geographic proximity to infections or a high proportion of workers in occupations that are more likely to be exposed. Poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection in deprived areas remain after adjusting for age, sex, region and ethnicity, but the role of comorbidities requires further investigation.

People from Black ethnic groups were most likely to be diagnosed. Death rates from COVID-19 were highest among people of Black and Asian ethnic groups. This is the opposite of what is seen in previous years, when the mortality rates were lower in Asian and Black ethnic groups than White ethnic groups. Therefore, the disparity in COVID-19 mortality between ethnic groups is the opposite of that seen in previous years.

An analysis of survival among confirmed COVID-19 cases and using more detailed ethnic groups, shows that after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.

These analyses did not account for the effect of occupation, comorbidities or obesity. These are important factors because they are associated with the risk of acquiring COVID-19, the risk of dying, or both. Other evidence has shown that when comorbidities are included, the difference in risk of death among hospitalised patients is greatly reduced.

A total of 10,841 COVID-19 cases were identified in nurses, midwives and nursing associates registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Among those who are registered, this represents 4% of Asian ethnic groups, 3.1% of Other ethnic groups, 1.7% of White ethnic groups and 1.5% of both Black and Mixed ethnic groups. This analysis did not look at the possible reasons behind these differences, which may be driven by factors like geography or nature of individuals’ roles.

Disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19 
ONS reported that men working as security guards, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, bus and coach drivers, chefs, sales and retail assistants, lower skilled workers in construction and processing plants, and men and women working in social care had significantly high rates of death from COVID-19. Our analysis expands on this and shows that nursing auxiliaries and assistants have seen an increase in all cause deaths since 2014 to 2018. For many occupations, however, the number of deaths is too small to draw meaningful conclusions and further analysis will be required.

Inclusion health groups
When compared to previous years, there has been a larger increase in deaths among people born outside the UK and Ireland. The biggest relative increase was for people born in Central and Western Africa, the Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East and South and Eastern Africa. This may be one of the drivers behind the differences in mortality rates seen between ethnic groups.

There were 54 men and 13 women diagnosed with COVID-19 with no fixed abode, likely to be rough sleepers. We estimate that this represents 2% and 1.5% of the known population of women and men who experienced rough sleeping in 2019. Data is of poor quality, but this suggests a much higher diagnoses rate when compared to the general population.

People in care homes
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that deaths in care homes accounted for 27% of deaths from COVID-19 up to 8 May 2020. The number of deaths in care homes peaked later than those in hospital, in week ending 24 April.

Our analyses show that there have been 2.3 times the number of deaths in care homes than expected between 20 March and 7 May when compared to previous years, which equates to around 20,457 excess deaths. The number of COVID-19 deaths over this period is equivalent to 46.4% of the excess suggesting that there are many excess deaths from other causes or an under-reporting of deaths from COVID-19.

Among deaths with COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate, a higher percentage mentioned diabetes, hypertensive diseases, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementia than all cause death certificates.

Diabetes was mentioned on 21% of death certificates where COVID-19 was also mentioned. This finding is consistent with other studies that have reported a higher risk of death from COVID-19 among patients with diabetes. This proportion was higher in all
Disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19
BAME groups when compared to White ethnic groups and was 43% in the Asian group and 45% in the Black group. The same disparities were seen for hypertensive disease.

Several studies, although measuring the different outcomes from COVID-19, report an increased risk of adverse outcomes in obese or morbidly obese people.

View Full Report: Disparities in the risk and outcomes from COVID-19