Professor Chris Whitty addressed the UK coronavirus pandemic at today’s daily press conference, chaired by First Secretary Dominic Raab.
When asked if ethnicity plays a role in a person’s vulnerability to the virus, Professor Whitty said there were three clear factors that health officials know increase the risk of coronavirus for one person.
He said, “It is absolutely essential that we find out which groups are most at risk so that we can help protect them.”
“There are three things that are really clear – and the ethnicity is less clear. “
Professor Whitty said the government is “very keen” to find out if more people from ethnic minorities appear to be suffering from the disease and said that Public Health England has been asked to investigate the matter in detail.
He then described the following three “clear” risk factors.
1. Pre-existing conditions
Professor Whitty said that over 90% of people who died from coronavirus in the UK had at least one other disease.
He said cardiovascular disease was one of the conditions suffered by many of those who died.
The latest coronavirus death statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that among the deaths involving Covid-19 that occurred last month, there was at least one pre-existing condition in 91% of the cases.
The most common preexisting disease was ischemic heart disease, which was mentioned on 541 death certificates – 14% of deaths from the virus.
Next came dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (531 deaths), chronic lower respiratory diseases (495 deaths) and influenza and pneumonia (415 deaths).
And Professor Whitty said protecting the elderly is “essential” because age is one of the factors that puts you at increased risk if you develop coronavirus.
Data from the ONS found that the death rate from coronavirus increases dramatically in each age group, from 55 to 59 in men and 65 to 69 in women.
Overall, one in five deaths occurred in people aged 80 to 84.
Professor Whitty said the evidence shows that male is a “very clear risk factor” – but the reason why it is not yet clear.
According to ONS data, almost twice as many men as women died from the coronavirus last month.
The ONS said the death rate for men from the coronavirus was “significantly higher” than for women.
The data revealed that there were 79.5 deaths per 100,000 people for men compared to 46.5 deaths per 100,000 people for women.