Are those who are part of minority groups particularly vulnerable to COVID-19?

Minority groups have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and an increased risk for severe outcomes if infected. This is often due to the entrenched exclusion, discrimination and lower socio-economic status of many people belonging to minority groups. Historically, long-standing social and health inequities are principal causes for the disproportionate effects that are frequently seen. Furthermore, stigma, fear, discrimination and racism have been highlighted as root causes for many minority groups’ increased exposure to coronavirus and severe illness from COVID-19. Increased vulnerability among minorities to COVID-19 has been evident in both high, middle and low-income countries. In the United Kingdom, people of Pakistani origin are 2.9 times more likely to die due to COVID-19 and black Africans are 3.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white British people. In Norway, citizens of Somali ethnicity were more than 10 times more likely than the general population to contract COVID-19.

It is not possible to know the exact number of people belonging to minority groups worldwide. This is due to the lack of a widely accepted definition for minorities. However, commonly ‘minority groups’ are understood to be people who have characteristics that are different to the majority of the population in the place where they live. This could include being part of religious, linguistic, national, or ethnic minorities or other characteristics. This includes groups living in well-defined areas, such as the Niuenans and Tongan ethnic groups who live on islands in the Pacific. There are also relatively large religious minority groups, including Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Christians in Sri Lanka.

This resource can be used to ensure religious, ethnic and national minority groups are involved in COVID-19 response programming. In addition to these minorities, the Hygiene Hub also offers the following guidance for creating an inclusive COVID-19 response:


Want to know more about engaging minorities in COVID-19 response?

Editor's note

Written by: Astrid Hasund Thorseth

Reviewed by: Christopher Bachtrog, Sheillah N. Simiyu, Eva Niederberger

Last updated: 11.11.2020

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