Last week, the Office for National Statistics confirmed what many had suspected since the start of this pandemic – black, Asian and minority ethnic people are far more likely to get and die from coronavirus. But it is the scale of difference that is so worrying. Black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. Even after taking into account age, underlying health and income factors, they are still almost twice as likely as white people to die from the virus.
The government has promised that a review by Public Health England into how ethnicity affects vulnerability to coronavirus will be published by the end of May. It can’t come soon enough: among frontline NHS and social care workers, the difference is all too stark: despite accounting for just 20% of the workforce, 94% of doctors and 71% of nurses who have died from Covid-19 were black, Asian and minority ethnic. It has prompted NHS England to recommend risk assessments for BAME frontline staff to reduce their exposure to the virus.
If that Vitamin D hypothesis is true one very objectionable manner of pointing it out is that people with darker skins aren’t well adapted to living at higher latitudes. So, perhaps for their own health, they shouldn’t?
Or, to be less objectionable, perhaps that melanin enhancement should be considered – despite that connection with race and all that political malarkey – in the health advice proffered to those who decide, on balance, that life is better here than in the tropics. A point about which they’re entirely correct of course.
For there is a reason that paler skin developed. Not because evolution directs or anything but because among those who moved to higher latitudes the darker skinned kiddies died earlier, had fewer children, than the lighter skinned.