The risk of dying from COVID-19 in hospital is much higher among the South Asian population and it is partly due to high levels of diabetes, researchers have said.

The study, which involved 30,693 people who were admitted to 260 hospitals, found there was a 19 per cent increased risk of death with coronavirus among the South Asian community compared with white people.

Within that group, 40 per cent of them had diabetes, making the condition a “significant factor” in the findings, the researchers said.

The information was collected across England, Scotland and Wales from  February to early May. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed by other researchers, nor published in a medical journal.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, lead researcher Dr Ewen Harrison, professor of surgery and data science at the University of Edinburgh, said: “South Asian people look very different in hospital to other groups, in particular, white people.

“They’re younger, 12 years younger in average, less likely to have pre-existing conditions such as lung disease, dementia or obesity but much more likely to have diabetes.

“In fact, 40 per cent of the South Asians in hospital with COVID-19 have diabetes, we think this is quite a significant contributor to their increased likelihood of death.”

Based on the findings, the report is recommending that ethnicity might also be considered, in addition to age and health, when it comes to determining who should be made eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

Although Professor Harrison that may not be as easy to implement.

He said: “It does have far-reaching implications that are difficult to grapple with. Should there be a different policy for a frontline South Asian nurse to a white nurse – that’s what’s really tricky.”

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