A government medical adviser says he cannot easily tell who is more at risk of dying with COVID-19 – a 50-year-old slender black man who runs half-marathons, or a 32-year-old white man who is extremely overweight, has diabetes, asthma and does not exercise.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was speaking about the "complicated" situation surrounding the vulnerability of people from black and minority ethnic communities.
It follows an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report earlier this week that said black people are up to four times more likely to die with coronavirus than white people.
And a separate study found that being male, older in age, having uncontrolled diabetes and severe asthma are key factors related to COVID-19 deaths, according to researchers at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
New analysis published on Thursday showed black women are more likely to die by a factor of 4.3 and black men by 4.2 compared with Caucasian people, after adjusting for age.
Other ethnic minorities have a heightened risk, too.
Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus news briefing, Prof Van-Tam said he takes the ONS report on the issue "very seriously indeed".
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He added: "There is an enormous determination across the medical advisory function for the government to get to the bottom of this, and get to the bottom of it with real clarity.
"And that's why I don't want to come on here today, and offer you, kind of, silly quick fixes. This is a complex mixture of risk by age, risk by gender, risk by comorbidities, other illnesses.
"There is an obesity signal beginning to emerge as well, and on top of that, and I'm absolutely clear, there is a signal around black and minority ethnic groups.
"No one I think is trying to brush that under the carpet or say it's not there, but it Read More – Source