Matt Hancock wrongly claims vitamin D doesn’t work for Covid-19


Health Secretary Matt Hancock was told to ‘get his facts straight’ today after shooting down vitamin D as a potential coronavirus treatment despite a growing body of evidence from around the world suggesting it works. 

Experts have for months been calling for officials to look into the immune system-boosting nutrient’s effect on Covid-19 patients after a mountain of research showed a link to vitamin D deficiency.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons last week he had green-lit a Government-funded ‘trial’ investigating vitamin D and that it did not ‘appear to have any impact’. 

But officials have since admitted that no clinical trials had taken place and claim it was a slip of the tongue from the health secretary – who was also staunchly opposed to face masks in the spring and claimed they were ‘extremely weak’ in stopping Covid-19’s spread. 

Officials estimate one in five Britons are deficient in vitamin D — the equivalent of 13million Britons. But the rate is up to 90 per cent in people with darker skin, such as BAME populations who are known to be at greater risk from Covid-19. 

Mr Hancock has now agreed to meet experts to to hear the growing case for the vitamin, which the body produces when exposed to the sun. But his flippant dismissal of vitamin D has sparked fury among scientists and MPs who today said time is running out for ministers to act, as levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ drop dramatically in autumn and winter.

Experts said his comments ‘displayed incredible ignorance’, while Liberal Democrat MP Layla Morgan told MailOnline the secretary of state ‘needs to be listening, not dismissing’. She added: ‘I hope Matt Hancock will take a less flippant approach to potential treatments in future and get his facts straight before making such comments. We’re in a crisis, it’s time for politicians to stop playing science and listen to the experts.’ 

A mountain of studies have found an overwhelming amount of people who test positive for Covid-19 do not have enough vitamin D in their bodies and the sickest of patients are often deficient. Scientists have not yet been able to pin down whether the nutrient deficiency is making people more vulnerable to the disease or whether becoming unwell causes vitamin D levels to crash.

But vitamin D supplements are safe, cheap and readily available – costing as little as 6p a pill and sold in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health shops – which has left experts baffled as to why Mr Hancock would be so quick to dismiss them. 

One of Britain’s leading doctors told MailOnline that politicians were so hellbent on getting a vaccine – the Government has pumped hundreds of millions into jab development research projects – that they had overlooked the potential of vitamin D and boosting people’s immune systems, which is far less glamorous.

But Matt Hancock told the House of Commons last week he had green-lit a Government-funded ‘trial’ investigating vitamin D and that it did not ‘appear to have any impact’

Vitamin D supplements are safe, cheap and readily available - costing as little as 6p a pill and sold in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health shops

Vitamin D supplements are safe, cheap and readily available – costing as little as 6p a pill and sold in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health shops 

As well as in supplements, vitamin D is also available through foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs (right). A Singaporean study earlier in the year of nearly 800 people found almost 99% of Covid-19 patients who died had vitamin D deficiency (left)

As well as in supplements, vitamin D is also available through foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs (right). A Singaporean study earlier in the year of nearly 800 people found almost 99% of Covid-19 patients who died had vitamin D deficiency (left)

A study by Tehran University, in Iran, and Boston University analysed data from 235 hospitalised patients with Covid-19. Patients who had sufficient vitamin D - of at least 30 ng/mL— were 51.5 per cent less likely to die from the disease. Although no one in the study under age 40 died, fatalities  (red) were more  common among vitamin  D deficient people (under the  black  line) of all ages

A study by Tehran University, in Iran, and Boston University analysed data from 235 hospitalised patients with Covid-19. Patients who had sufficient vitamin D – of at least 30 ng/mL— were 51.5 per cent less likely to die from the disease. Although no one in the study under age 40 died, fatalities  (red) were more  common among vitamin  D deficient people (under the  black  line) of all ages

A correlation graph showing the relationship between levels of viamin D (bottom, measured in nmol/l) compared to infection numbers of coronavirus by the University of East Anglia. Countries with low vitamin D levels tend to have the highest case rates per million - but the graph was from a study in May, when outbreaks looked very different to how they do now and testing was patchy in most countries

A correlation graph showing the relationship between levels of viamin D (bottom, measured in nmol/l) compared to infection numbers of coronavirus by the University of East Anglia. Countries with low vitamin D levels tend to have the highest case rates per million – but the graph was from a study in May, when outbreaks looked very different to how they do now and testing was patchy in most countries

University of Chicago researchers studying 500 Americans' vitamin D levels  found 60 per cent higher rates of Covid-19 among people with low levels of the 'sunshine vitamin'

University of Chicago researchers studying 500 Americans’ vitamin D levels  found 60 per cent higher rates of Covid-19 among people with low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’

What have just some of the DOZENS of studies into vitamin D and Covid-19 shown?

When? September.

By who? Cordoba University in Spain.

What did scientists study? 50 Covid-19 hospital patients with Covid-19 were given vitamin D. Their health outcomes were compared with 26 volunteers in a control group who were not given the tablets.

What did they find? Only one of the 50 patients needed intensive care and none died. Half of 26 virus sufferers who did not take vitamin D were later admitted to intensive care and two died.

What were the study’s limitations? Small pool of volunteers. Patients’ vitamin D levels were not checked before admission. Comorbidities were not taken into consideration.

When? September.

By Who? University of Chicago.

What did scientists study? 500 Americans’ vitamin D levels were tested. Researchers then compared volunteers’ levels with how many caught coronavirus.

What did they find? 60 per cent higher rates of Covid-19 among people with low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

What were the study’s limitations?  

Researchers did not check for other compounding factors. Unclear whether or not volunteers were vitamin D deficient at the time of their coronavirus tests. People’s age, job and where they lived – factors which greatly increase the chance of contracting the virus – were not considered.

When? September.

By Who? Tehran University, in Iran, and Boston University.

What did scientists study? Analysed data from 235 hospitalized patients with Covid-19.

What did they find? Patients who had sufficient vitamin D – of at least 30 ng/mL— were 51.5 per cent less likely to die from the disease. They also had a significantly lower risk of falling seriously ill or needing ventilation. Patients who had plenty of the nutrient also had less inflammation – often a deadly side effect of Covid-19. 

What were the study’s limitations? Confounding factors, such as smoking, and social economic status were not recorded for all patients and could have an impact on illness severity.  

When? July.

By Who? Tel Aviv University, Israel.

What did scientists study? 782 people who tested positive for coronavirus had their vitamin d levels prior to infection assessed retrospectively and compared to healthy people.

What did they find? People with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml – optimal – were 45 per cent more likely to test positive and 95 per cent more likely to be hospitalised.

What were the study’s limitations?  Did not look at underlying health conditions and did not check vitamin D levels at the time of infection.

When? June.

By Who? Brussels Free University.

What did scientists study? Compared vitamin D levels in almost 200 Covid-19 hospital patients with a control group of more than 2,000 healthy people.

What did they find? Men who were hospitalised with the infection were significantly more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than healthy men of the same age. Deficiency rates were 67 per cent in the COVID-19 patient group, and 49 per cent in the control group. The same was not found for women.

What were the study’s limitations?  Independent scientists say blood vitamin D levels go down when people develop serious illness, which the study did not take into consideration. This suggests that it is the illness that is leading to lower blood vitamin D levels in this study, and not the other way around.

When? June.

By who? Inha University in Incheon, South Korea.

What did scientists study? 50 hospital patients with Covid-19 were checked for levels of all vital vitamins and compared to a control group.

What did they find? 76 per cent of them were deficient in vitamin D, and a severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/dl) was found in 24 per cent of Covid-19 patients and just 7 per cent in the control group.

What were the study’s limitations?  

Small sample size and researchers never accounted for vitamin levels dropping when they fall ill.

When? June.

By Who?. Independent scientists in Indonesia.

What did scientists study? Checked vitamin D levels in 780 Covid-19 hospital patients.

What did they find? Almost 99% of patients who died had vitamin D deficiency. Of patients with vitamin D levels higher than 30 ng/ml  – considered optimal – only  per cent died.

What were the study’s limitations?  It was not peer-reviewed by fellow scientists, a process that often uncovers flaws in studies.

When? May.

By Who? University of Glasgow.

What did scientists study? Vitamin D levels in 449 people from the UK Biobank who had confirmed Covid-19 infection. 

What did they find? Vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk in infection – but not after adjustment for con-founders such as ethnicity. It led to the team to conclude their ‘findings do not support a potential link between vitamin D concentrations and risk of Covid-19 infection.’

What were the study’s limitations?  Vitamin D levels were taken 10 to 14 years beforehand. 

When? May.

By Who? University of East Anglia.

What did scientists study? Average levels of vitamin D in populations of 20 European countries were compared with Covid-19 infection and death rates at the time.

What did they find? The mean level of vitamin D in each country was ‘strongly associated’ with higher levels of Covid-19 cases and deaths. The authors said at the time: ‘The most vulnerable group of population for Covid-19 is also the one that has the most deficit in vitamin D.’

What were the study’s limitations?  The number of cases in each country was affected by the number of tests performed, as well as the different measures taken by each country to prevent the spread of infection. And it only looked at correlation, not causation.

When? May.

By Who? Northwestern University.

What did scientists study? Crunched data from dozens of studies around the world that included vitamin D levels among Covid-19 patients. 

What did they find? Patients with a severe deficiency are twice as likely to experience major complications and die.

What were the study’s limitations?  Cases and deaths in each country was affected by the number of tests performed.

NEW FINGER PRICK TEST CAN SPOT VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY IN JUST 15 MINUTES

Britons can now find out whether they are deficient in vitamin D in as little as fifteen minutes, thanks to a new test.

The pioneering DIY kit — marketed as the first-of-its-kind in the world — works on just a few drops of blood taken from the finger.

It works in exactly the same way as how diabetics check their blood sugar levels, and similar kits exist to look for Covid-19 antibodies.

Blood is mixed with a solution before it is fed into a 10cm device, which analyses the sample to determine vitamin D levels. Users are able to find out their results through the Your Personalised Vitamin’s (YPV) app, by scanning the device through their phone.

It is the first vitamin D test kit to give a quantitative result, meaning the result gives a precise reading rather than just high or low.

Other do-it-yourself vitamin D tests, which do not give a quantitative result instead giving a basic reading just like a pregnancy test, are sold online and for around £10. YPV’s home-kit costs £40. 

It comes after promising research in Spain, which MailOnline covered last month, suggested supplementing Covid-19 hospital patients with the vitamin saves lives. 

With very limited treatment options – only a handful of steroid have been proven to help Covid-19 patients – the UK Government has had to rollback economically-crippling and socially-constraining lockdown measures. 

Ministers have threatened a second lockdown unless the virus’s current trajectory is curtailed. 

If proven to work, vitamin D could provide a cheap and easy way to protect Brits and keep the nation ticking over until a vaccine is ready. 

Mr Hancock shot down vitamin D’s potential last week in reply to a question from Dr Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing and Acton Central.

He said: ‘Vitamin D is one of the many things we have looked into, to see whether it reduces the incidence or impact of coronavirus. 

‘And I’ve seen reports that it does, so we therefore put it into a trial, and unfortunately the results were that it doesn’t appear to have any impact. So that is the latest clinical advice, which, of course, is always kept under review.’ 

Mr Hancock appeared to be referring to a review of evidence conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), an arm of the Department of Health.

NICE conducted a review of a limited number of studies published by June. It noted that a stronger immune system provided greater protection against Covid-19 and admitted that vitamin D boosted immune function. 

But it was not convinced there was enough evidence to show that giving doses of the vitamin to already-sick Covid-19 patients provided any benefit. 

Dozens of studies — based on weaker methodologies than the Spanish research — have also pointed to similar links.

For instance, researchers at the University of East Anglia in May said: ‘The most vulnerable group of population for Covid-19 is also the one that has the most deficit in vitamin D.’

While University of Chicago scientists last month found that rates of Covid-19 were 60 per cent higher among people with low levels of the sunshine nutrient.  

But not all of the evidence has pointed to a benefit. 

Glasgow University researchers in May ruled that vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk in infection – but not after adjustment for con-founders such as ethnicity. 

It led to the team to conclude their ‘findings do not support a potential link between vitamin D concentrations and risk of Covid-19 infection’.

Dr Huq, in a point of order in parliament on Monday this week, said: ‘[Mr Hancock] said that he had conducted a trial and there was no effect. 

‘It turns out that there was no trial. The word ‘trial’ implies fresh evidence, not reheated leftovers.’ 

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Morgan told MailOnline: ‘This Government needs to be listening not dismissing. 

‘I hope Matt Hancock will take a less flippant approach to potential treatments in future and get his facts straight before making such comments. 

‘We’re in a crisis, it’s time for politicians to stop playing science and listen to the experts’ 

Professor Asif Ahmed, vice chancellor for healthcare at Aston University in Birmingham, said it was ‘illogical’ to say vitamin D has no effect on fighting illnesses.

He told MailOnline: ‘We can’t expect the secretary of state to know everything. So we can’t put all the blame on him, but questions have to be asked about why none of his experts have looked into this properly.

‘Even if there is a glimmer of hope – vitamin D supplements are safe, there’s no dangers to taking them unless people take way too much.

‘Even if taking vitamin D only reduces the chance of falling very ill with Covid-19, let’s do it. The amount of millions we’re spending on vaccines, public health measures and other treatments – why don’t we just make everyone take supplements over winter.  

‘Even if we don’t have conclusive data, we should go ahead. 

‘The Government still doesn’t have conclusive data on wearing face masks, but we’re wearing them and they’re probably helping a little bit. 

‘We can’t call for a big study into vitamin d then wait to years time and deicede. It’ll be too late then.’

As well as in supplements, vitamin D is also available through foods, mainly oily fish. 

Black and ethnic minority people (BAME) are more likely to be deficient because it is harder for darker skin types to absorb the nutrient from sunlight. 

Eighty per cent of people from South Asian backgrounds, for example, are deficient in the nutrient. 

Some believe this may one of the reasons BAME people face a higher risk of dying from the illness, but this has yet to be proven.  

The current advice from Public Health England and the NHS is for everybody to consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms – the amount found in one small salmon fillet – during the winter months when sun is hard to come by. 

‘This is because you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight if you’re indoors most of the day,’ the NHS advises, saying that supplements helps to keep bones healthy. 

The NHS adds: ‘There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus. There is currently not enough evidence to support this.’ 

The NHS says the general consensus is levels of below 25nmol/L — the equivalent of 10ng/ml — in the blood indicate vitamin D deficiency.

This is thought to be the equivalent of taking around 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

The Institute of Medicine — a US health advisory body — states levels below 20ng/ml (50nmol/L) is a deficiency.

Large doses of vitamin D can be dangerous, with anything above 100 micrograms to be taken only under medical supervision.

Charles Bangham, chairman in immunology at Imperial College London, told The Times: ‘PHE already recommends that everybody take a daily vitamin D supplement but the message is not getting through to a large section of the population.

‘As we move into autumn and winter, vitamin D levels will fall and more of the population will become deficient. 

‘On that basis, whatever is to be done must be done swiftly. We have nothing to lose but much to gain by eradicating deficiency.’

Studies linking vitamin D deficiency to poorer health outcomes from Covid-19 have been piling up since the pandemic hit earlier in the year.

The growing body of evidence prompted Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer at NHS England, to send a memo to all maternity units in June warning that ‘women low in vitamin D may be more vulnerable to coronavirus’. 

The US Government’s leading infectious disease expert, Antony Fauci, has admitted he takes vitamin D to boost his immune system against viruses.  

But the most promising study into vitamin D’s effects on Covid-19 was carried out by the University of Cordoba in Spain and published last month.

Researchers gave high doses of calcifediol – a type of vitamin D supplement – to 50 patients hospitalised with the disease.

They were given 1,000 micrograms of the supplement over the course of a week, with 550mcg on the first day and then two booster doses of 270mcg on days three and seven. 

‘The dose was much higher than the 70mcg weekly limit recommended by the NHS.

Scientists compared the participants’ health with 26 volunteers in a control group who were not given the tablets, which are normally prescribed to patients with thyroid or kidney problems.

Just one patient given calcifediol fell ill enough to be admitted to intensive care, whereas half of the participants in the control group were taken to ICU and two died.

There were no deaths among volunteers receiving the vitamin and all 50 patients were eventually discharged by the end of the study. 

Independent scientists, including some from NICE, said the findings were promising but there were too many flaws in the study’s methods.

For example, the experts did not measure vitamin D levels before or after administering the drug. 

And participants’ underlying health conditions were not defined. 

Experts now believe Covid-19 causes a catastrophic build-up of a chemical called bradykinin, which makes blood vessels leaky and drives up the risk of inflammation.

Calcifediol is one of the few hormones which regulates the bradykinin and it can also prevent the immune system from going into overdrive. 

But this is just a theory and has still not been proven. 

HOW VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY AFFECTS THE BODY 

Vitamin D deficiency – when the level of vitamin D in your body is too low – can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen.

Vitamin D also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure and immune function – and this relates to heart disease and cancer – but this is still being investigated.

Low levels of the vitamin have also long been linked to an increased risk of multiple sclerosis.

For most adults, vitamin D deficiency is not a concern. However, some groups – particularly people who are obese, who have dark skin and who are older than age 65 – may have lower levels of vitamin D due to their diets, little sun exposure or other factors.

The NHS says the general consensus is levels of below 25nmol/L in the blood indicate vitamin D deficiency. This is thought to be the equivalent of taking around 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

The Institute of Medicine — a US health advisory body — states levels below 20ng/ml (50nmol/L) is a deficiency. 

Large doses of vitamin D can be dangerous, with anything above 100 micrograms to be taken only under medical supervision.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE ARE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT IN BRITAIN?

White people: About 20%

People with African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin: Over 80%

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘My general view is that if there is no clear cut view on vitamin D after six months of debate then there is nothing in it. 

‘The bradykinin theory sounds plausible but it is just one of hundreds of factors that are induced by the infection and many cytokines also cause blood vessel leakage (its why you have hemorrhagic shock in several viral diseases).’ 

Taking too much vitamin D can cause bone and organ damage over time, however, and scientists discouraged people from trying to self-medicate. 

Meanwhile, Britons can now find out whether they are deficient in vitamin D in as little as fifteen minutes, thanks to a new test.

The pioneering DIY kit — marketed as the first-of-its-kind in the world — works on just a few drops of blood taken from the finger.

It works in exactly the same way as how diabetics check their blood sugar levels, and similar kits exist to look for Covid-19 antibodies.

MINISTERS WOULD ALREADY KNOW FOR DEFINITE WHETHER VITAMIN D WORKED IF DEFICIENCIES WERE MORE COMMON IN WHITE PEOPLE, EXPERT SAYS

More research would have been done into the link between vitamin D and Covid-19 if deficiency was a bigger problem for white people, a doctor has claimed.

Ethnic minorities more often suffer from vitamin D deficiency because their skin is slower to make it from sunlight. Eighty per cent of people from South Asian backgrounds, for example, are deficient in the nutrient, compared to one in five Brits overall.

Experts have for months called on officials to take a proper look into the nutrient’s effect on Covid-19 patients due to its immune system-boosting properties, with an array of evidence suggesting it is beneficial.

But scientists have yet to be able to conclusively say that the sunshine vitamin does help because of a lack of gold-standard trials, such as the one carried out to prove that the cheap steroid dexamethasone boosts survival rates for the most critically-ill patients. 

Dr Aseem Malhotra, one of Britain’s leading anti-obesity campaigners and a former NHS cardiologist, told MailOnline ‘underlying racism’ is clearly to blame for the lack of clinical trials into vitamin D.

He said: ‘Vitamin D plays an essential role in innate and adaptive immunity. Severe deficiency, which has been strongly correlated with adverse outcomes from Covid-19, also has a high prevalence among BAME groups in the UK. 

‘The majority of those from South Asian or black backgrounds are either deficient or severely deficient. 

‘This has been known for years yet little has been done to act on it, in part because of how endemic racism is in both medical research and practice.’

Dr Malhotra, author of Sunday Times best-seller ‘The 21-Day Immunity Plan’, added that everybody should consider taking vitamin D during the winter months.

He said: ‘There is no significant harm from supplementing the public with vitamin D, and only likely a benefit.’

Blood is mixed with a solution before it is fed into a 10cm device, which analyses the sample to determine vitamin D levels.

Users are able to find out their results through the Your Personalised Vitamin’s (YPV) app, by scanning the device through their phone.

It is the first vitamin D test kit to give a quantitative result, meaning the result gives a precise reading rather than just high or low.

Other do-it-yourself vitamin D tests, which do not give a quantitative result instead giving a basic reading just like a pregnancy test, are sold online and for around £10. YPV’s home-kit costs £40.

Private clinics have for years offered Britons the chance to find out whether they are deficient in the vitamin through similar tests. 

But these can take up to a week to give results because they must be analysed in a laboratory.

YPV offers plans to tailor the results of the test to individual needs, advising deficient Britons on exactly how much of the nutrient they need.

Chris Chapman, chief executive officer of manufacturer YPV, said: ‘We have seen a mountain of evidence that vitamin D has a positive, and at times life-saving, impact on people suffering with severe symptoms of coronavirus. 

‘It is not just the abundance of evidence that points to this conclusion.

‘We fundamentally disagree with the Health Secretary on this matter, his comments display incredible ignorance. 

‘We urge him to practice his well-trodden mantra by following the science, which overwhelmingly points to the benefits of vitamin D when it comes tackling coronavirus. 

Mr Chapman added: ‘We are deeply disappointed about his comments.’

It comes as one doctor today claimed more research would have been done into the link between vitamin D and Covid-19 if deficiency was a bigger problem for white people. 

Scientists have yet to be able to conclusively say that the sunshine vitamin does help because of a lack of gold-standard trials, such as the one carried out to prove that the cheap steroid dexamethasone boosts survival rates for the most critically-ill patients. 

Dr Aseem Malhotra, one of Britain’s leading anti-obesity campaigners and a former NHS cardiologist, told MailOnline ‘underlying racism’ is clearly to blame for the lack of clinical trials into vitamin D.

He said: ‘Vitamin D plays an essential role in innate and adaptive immunity. Severe deficiency, which has been strongly correlated with adverse outcomes from Covid-19, also has a high prevalence among BAME groups in the UK. 

‘The majority of those from South Asian or black backgrounds are either deficient or severely deficient. 

‘This has been known for years yet little has been done to act on it, in part because of how endemic racism is in both medical research and practice.’

Dr Malhotra, author of Sunday Times best-seller ‘The 21-Day Immunity Plan’, added that everybody should consider taking vitamin D during the winter months.

He said: ‘There is no significant harm from supplementing the public with vitamin D, and only likely a benefit.’

Dr Malhotra said he suspects ministers are so focused on a vaccine that they may be overlooking more simple treatment options, like promoting a healthy immune system and supplementing vitamin D.

He added:  ‘The current narrative of suggesting the best and only solution to beat Covid-19 is waiting for a vaccine plays into the Big Pharma narrative, who have too much influence over politicians.

‘As one very senior politician once said to me, “the Department of Health is too close to industry” – we yet have no idea how effective a vaccine will be. 

‘For example the flu vaccine is largely ineffective for over 65s yet most doctors don’t know this let alone patients. The focus needs to be advice and policies that help the population lead healthier lives, which won’t only reduce the burden on the overstretched NHS but will also improve our resilience to infection.’

It comes as another study today claimed that black people are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people.

Numerous reports, including government-funded research, have shown people in black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) communities are being hit harder by the coronavirus.  

The latest review of evidence, commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, adds to the fire. 

Manchester University academics, who carried out the research, found black people were 1.9 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. They analysed the data from both local and national sources to make the conclusion.

Black people are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people, finds study commissioned by Sadiq Khan 

Black people are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people, according to a study that adds to growing evidence on the subject.

Numerous reports, including government-funded research, have shown people in black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) communities are being hit harder by the coronavirus.  

The latest review of evidence, commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, adds to the fire. 

Manchester University academics, who carried out the research, found black people were 1.9 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people. They analysed the data from both local and national sources to make the conclusion.

And the effect was still found even when they took into account that non-white people tend to, on average, have worse health and living conditions. 

Experts believe BAME communities have been hit harder by Covid-19 because ethnic minorities are more likely to be poorer and therefore in worse health, and more likely to work in public-facing jobs — leaving them vulnerable to catching the illness. 

The new report for Mr Khan made the same two conclusions, and it pointed out that a disproportionate number of BAME people work in risky jobs in the NHS and care homes. It comes after a study last week concluded BAME people are not genetically more at risk, but face a greater danger because of their life circumstances.

Public Health England, which found a similar risk of death for BAME people in a long-awaited report published in June, warned historic racism and the hostility towards immigrants was partly to blame.    

The study into Covid-19 death rates in London found that black men face a 1.9 times higher risk of dying than white men, even when their differences in age, where they live, and their wealth and health are taken into account (yellow bars indicate the increased risk when all those factors except race are taken out of the equation)

The study into Covid-19 death rates in London found that black men face a 1.9 times higher risk of dying than white men, even when their differences in age, where they live, and their wealth and health are taken into account (yellow bars indicate the increased risk when all those factors except race are taken out of the equation)

WHAT ELSE HAS MATT HANCOCK GOT WRONG? 

MASKS

The health secretary was staunchly opposed to face masks as a Covid-19 preventative measure during the first wave of the pandemic.

Mr Hancock described evidence about their effectiveness as ‘extremely weak’ in April, despite Asian nations which fared much better in the battle against the disease routinely wearing them in public spaces.

He reluctantly decided in July – four months into the crisis – that masks in shops were a good idea after Scotland beat him to the punch weeks earlier.

Mr Hancock pushed back against face coverings despite months of research that indicated masks were an effective way of reducing the risk of infection, even if the reduction was only slight.

It’s not clear if the health secretary was truly against face masks or did not want to risk running out of the coverings and leaving health and social care staff without any once again.

Harrowing reports emerged at the peak of the outbreak in April of frontline workers having to make their own masks out of old t shirts and bin bags because the Government failed to keep adequate stockpiles of PPE.

100,000 TESTS A DAY

Matt Hancock was accused of blatantly fiddling testing figures in May to hit his much-vaunted target for 100,000 coronavirus swabs in a day.

The health secretary used postal tests yet to be completed and multiple checks on the same people to hit his six-figure milestone.

He used an appearance at the Downing Street briefing to bullishly claim success after setting the significant a month prior, when tests were running at just 10,000 a day. 

Appearing live on television tonight he emotionally told the watching nation there were 122,347 tests in the 24 hours to 9am, branding it an ‘incredible achievement’ for the whole medical and scientific community.

But he faced a wave of condemnation as it became clear that the number appeared to only tell half the story.

Figures posted online by the Government itself show that his questionable calculation included tens of thousands of tests kits that have been sent out to homes and hospitals – even though they have yet to be used, returned and processed. 

COVID-19 APP

The health secretary promised a ‘world-beating’ coronavirus contact tracing app would launch alongside the NHS Test and Trace programme back in May.

But it turned out to be another empty promise that Mr Hancock could not live up to.

The app failed miserably during a month-long trial on the Isle of Wight, failing to reach a third of people who were at risk of infection.

Officials scrapped the app entirely and approached Google and Apple in June to ask them to help build the technology that they had shunned just months prior. 

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were all able to get their apps up and running quicker than England because they chose to work with the tech giants from the start. 

England finally became the last country in the UK to go live with its app in September, with ministers changing their tune to say it would only ‘compliment’ manual tracing work, which would still have to catch the majority of people.

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