Commenting on Covid-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes, a review led by Professor Kevin Fenton into the disproportionate effects of Covid-19, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"The NEU calls on the Government and Public Health England to develop urgent advice on the issues of greater health risk identified in the Fenton Review. Black staff*, staff with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, and staff aged over 55 are anxious about their safety. We also need to know much more about the risks associated with comorbidities which the Fenton Review also identifies.
“School leaders must consider these issues in their planning and exercise the precautionary principle when there is still so much unknown. Current Department for Education advice for school leaders is not sufficient to protect school staff and the communities they serve. The NEU will be publishing updated advice for members about higher-risk groups in response to the Fenton Review.
“The Fenton Review was commissioned because of deep concerns about the disproportionate rate of Black staff being affected in the NHS. The Fenton Review shows that the largest factor in determining the risk from Covid-19 is age, but risks are also higher for males than females; higher for Black people; and higher for people living in more deprived areas.
“Fenton points to the high number of comorbidities and that diabetes was on 21% of death certificates where Covid-19 is also shown. These comorbidities were not analysed by Fenton and further investigation needs to be done.
“For those who contract Covid-19, mortality was up to four times higher than expected in some Black groups. Even after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, Black adults from different backgrounds had between a 6% and 102% higher risk of dying than compared to White British patients.
“The risk associated with age increases exponentially. Someone in their fifties is at three times the risk of someone in their forties, but someone in their seventies is at 15 times the risk of a forty-something. Men are 50% more likely to die from coronavirus than women.
“Deprivation was also identified as a significant risk factor. This should urge the Government to factor in patterns of deprivation and health inequalities into a regional plan for taking the country out of lockdown.
“The report reinforces that those in contact occupations were more likely to experience illness or death than those in other occupations. There has also been an increase in deaths among people born outside the UK and Ireland and this means that the impact on refugee populations needs further work too.”
*‘Black’ is used in a political context to encompass “all members who self-identify as Black, Asian and any other minority ethnic groups who do not identify themselves as white“.