Black people are up to four times more likely to die with COVID-19 than their white counterparts, the Office for National Statistics has found.
New analysis published on Thursday showed black women are more likely to die by a factor of 4.3 and black men by 4.2 after adjusting for age compared to Caucasian people.
Other ethnic minorities have a heightened risk, too.
Those with Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds were found to be 3.6 times more likely to die in men and 3.4 in women.
While among people with Indian ethnicity, women were 2.7 times more likely to die and men 2.4.
For the Chinese ethnic group, the heightened risk for men was 1.9 and 1.2 for women.
Fatalities from coronavirus were also found to be twice as high in the most deprived parts of the UK, where those from ethnic minority backgrounds mainly reside, compared with the least deprived.
Underlying health conditions prevalent in those communities play a role in the disproportionate number of deaths, the ONS said.
“There’s really a strong social gradient to mortality rates generally, and even more for COVID,” explained the body’s head of health analysis, Nick Stripe.
However he cautioned that when adjusting for other factors – such as household composition, area deprivation, and any health or disability factors – the odds of death involving COVID-19 were “substantially reduced” for all ethnic groups relative to white people.
The demographic levels it measures against also come from the last census in 2011, which is held every ten years, so may not accurately reflect current levels.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said the figures were “appalling” and called for an investigation into “the causes of this disproportionality”.
“Action must be taken to protect black men and women – as well as people from all backgrounds – from the virus,” he tweeted.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned the statistics “reveal the true impact coronavirus is having on ethnic minority people”.
She said: “While the ONS has revealed the numbers, the reasons are less clear.
“Race inequality is persistent across Britain, with people from ethnic minorities facing disadvantage in their living conditions, access to healthcare and economic opportunities, among other areas, which could be contributing factors.”
Almost a quarter of UK businesses – 23% – have halted trading due to the lockdown, the ONS figures also show.
The hardest hit sectors have been accommodation and food, where 81% of companies have stopped trading, and the arts and entertainment, where 80% have ended operations.
More than two thirds of firms – 67% – have applied for the government’s furlough scheme while more than half – 58% reported a fall in turnover.