Study in UK finds PIO deaths 30% higher than whites due to work in health, social care

LONDON: The per capita Covid-19 hospital deaths for ethnic Indians in England are 30% higher than the white British majority, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies published on Friday.
The report, titled “Are Some Ethnic Groups More Vulnerable to Covid-19 than others?”, put this down to Indian men being 150% more likely and Indian women 25% more likely to work in health or social care roles than their white British counterparts.
While the Indian ethnic group makes up 3% of the working-age population of England and Wales, they account for 14% of doctors, it said.
The report added that minority ethnic groups are disproportionately likely to reside in urban areas so more likely to be exposed to the virus.
It found that South Asian ethnic groups are also much more likely to live in larger households, for “which all else equal will make transmission more likely”.
The report found that black and South Asian ethnic groups have been found to have much higher rates of diabetes than the population as a whole, and Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and black Caribbean individuals are much more likely than white British people to report one or more of health problems which are likely to increase their mortality risk from Covid-19.
Despite making up a large percentage of the NHS workforce, some Sikh, Muslim and Jewish doctors are complaining they are not getting the right PPE to suit religious beards.
Dr Sukhdev Singh, chairman of the Sikh Doctors Association, said five orthodox Sikh doctors had approached him after being removed from frontline roles because their hospitals did not have adequate supply of powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). The enclosed perspex hoods, which cover the turban and beard, can be worn instead of FFP3 or N95 masks in intensive care and high dependency units.
He said the problem had arisen because NHS trusts had procured equipment “blindly” without assessing the needs of their Jewish, Muslim and Sikh staff. There are an estimated 200 orthodox Sikh doctors working in the NHS. “Half the hospital trusts only have 10P PAPRs in the whole trust,” Singh said.
The PAPRs, which are reusable, come from Germany and the US and cost £1,000, whilst the FFP3 or N95 masks cost £5 to £10.
One of the doctors, a Sikh consultant anaesthetist aged 40 working at a hospital in the Midlands, “was given a choice to either shave his beard or be taken off his role into a secondary role,” Singh said. “So he stuck to his religious convictions and was taken out of the operating theatre and asked to come off his on-call rota,” Singh said. “His consultant colleagues had to take over his duties during a stressful pandemic which caused tensions.”
All five doctors have now got the correct masks and returned to the frontline.
British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin president Ramesh Mehta said: “They need to order the appropriate masks to respect religious beliefs regardless of cost.”
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