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UK COVID-19 Disparities Report

A new UK government report finds that socioeconomic factors, rather than genetics, account for disparities in deaths due to COVID-19 between ethnic groups, the Financial Times reports.

Individuals from Black and minority ethnic groups in the UK are nearly twice as likely to die to die from COVID-19 than white individuals, FT notes. In a new quarterly report, the government's Race Disparity Unit finds that while individuals from Black and South Asian ethnic groups are at increased risk for more severe COVID-19, it traces that risk largely to external factors like people's professions or whether they live in a large city, though also to pre-existing health conditions.

"The early work that I've seen doesn't suggest there's any genetic explanation for this," says Raghib Ali, a government advisor on COVID and ethnicity, according to Reuters.

He adds, though, that he also doesn't "think structural racism is a reasonable explanation" for the disparities in COVID-19 deaths, as FT reports.

BBC News notes that some experts disagree with Ali's assessment. "All the other factors such socioeconomic factors, diabetes, etc., are important but even if you were able to take these away, there is still a disparity," Chris Udenze, a physician who has worked in public health, tells the BBC. "Ethnicity is still a relevant factor and not paying attention to this will not help communities vulnerable to COVID."