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Muslims, Jews and COVID-19

COVID-19 appears to be hitting Muslims and Jews harder than the wider community. My presentation looking at the data and possible explanations.


Delivered 12 April 2020. Posted 20 April 2020. Updated 1 May 2020 for IFS research. Updated 7 May 2020 and 28 June 2020 for ONS research.

As I wrote in my article "Fighting COVID-19 while protecting individual freedom", the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease which it causes, COVID-19, are the greatest challenge that Britain has faced in my lifetime.

My wife and I have taken the personal risk very seriously, and went into precautionary self-isolation on 12 March, well before the Government advised it.

On 12 April 2020, The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester held an online event using Zoom, "Muslim Jewish Forum Dialogue: Muslim, Jews and COVID-19" which is reported on the Forum's website.

During the event, I gave a 19-minute presentation It can also be watched below. I have also provided links to some of the supporting material I mentioned in my talk.


I give some background about the Forum before going on to cover how COVID-19 is particularly impacting Muslims and Jews.

My PowerPoint slides are available for download.

If you would like to know more about The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, I suggest visiting my page "The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester's presentation at the University of Salford."

Additional material

COVID-19 and age

During my presentation, I mention the age distribution of serious COVID-19 cases, which is also graphed on page 6 of the ICNARC report mentioned below. I had prepared a slide, which was excluded from the final presentation for time reasons.

That data is reproduced below, showing percentages of cases.


Females %

Males %

Females %

Males %




Viral pneumonia

Viral pneumonia









































There are some striking implications. These are all intensive care patients who are seriously ill, not mild cases.


My presentation relies on data contained in a recent report from ICNARC. This is the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre. It has published at least two reports of detailed and up-to-date data on COVID-19 patients receiving intensive care, including comparisons with historic viral pneumonia data.

Download the full ICNARC report.

Research on whether multi-generational households are a risk factor

I think it is very likely that that multi-generational households in Muslim and Haredi communities are a risk factor because older people are more likely to get infected with the virus SARS-CoV-2 if they have young people living with them who may be little affected by the virus.

In my presentation I mentioned two scientific papers, neither of which has yet had peer review.

The first was Bayer, C and M Kuhn (2020), “Intergenerational ties and case fatality rates: A cross country analysis”, CEPR Discussion Paper no. 14519. This looks at case fatality rates and the relative occurrence of intergenerational households in different European countries, finding a correlation.

Such research faces many challenges, since different testing regimes can produce very different case fatality rates.

The second was Marianna Belloc, Paolo Buonanno, Francesco Drago, Roberto Galbiati, Paolo Pinotti “Cross-country correlation analysis for research on COVID-19”. This seeks to rebut the above paper’s conclusions. The authors point out that they ran the same correlation for different regions within Italy, and found a negative correlation!

Jewish Chronicle articles about deaths in the Jewish community

I have subscribed to this newspaper for many years. It has had several articles reporting on the number of Jewish deaths.

27 March 2020 - Jewish community death toll hits 34

30 March 2020 - Coronavirus: Are Jews disproportionately dying after contracting Covid-19?

3 April 2020 - Jewish coronavirus deaths 'undoubtedly could have been avoided' by earlier social distancing, immunologist says

17 April 2020 - UK Jewish coronavirus deaths rise to 256

Institute for Fiscal Studies research published 1 May 2020

Detailed research for the IFS Deaton Inequality Review has confirmed what I could see in the above ICNARC figures.

They ask the question "Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others?" and come up with a clear answer, which is yes. The linked page contains their executive summary, and also enables you to download their full 27-page report.

I have reproduced below the key paragraphs from their executive summary.

Once you take account of age and geography, most minority groups ‘should’ have fewer deaths per capita than the white British majority. While many minority groups live disproportionately in areas such as London and Birmingham, which have more COVID-19 deaths, most minorities are also younger on average than the population as a whole, which should make them less vulnerable.

After accounting for the age, gender and geographic profiles of ethnic groups, inequalities in mortality relative to the white British majority are therefore more stark for most minority groups than they first appear. Black Africans and Pakistanis would be expected to have fewer fatalities per capita than white British but at present they are comparable.

After stripping out the role of age and geography, Bangladeshi hospital fatalities are twice those of the white British group, Pakistani deaths are 2.9 times as high and black African deaths 3.7 times as high. The Indian, black Caribbean and ‘other white’ ethnic groups also have excess fatalities, with the white Irish group the only one to have fewer fatalities than white British.

Office for National Statistics research published 7 May 2020

The Office for National Statistics ("ONS") has also been looking at the ethnicity question, as it has become an important national issue over the last month. As an arm of the government, they have access to far better data than external researchers.

In this case, they have been able to take death certificates, individual by individual, and link them back to the 2011 census form completed by that individual, and then do statistical analysis. That allows them to know the individual's 2011 self-reported ethnicity as well as other self-reported 2011 data about that individual.

The ONS report "Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by ethnic group, England and Wales: 2 March 2020 to 10 April 2020" was published on 7 May 2020. I recommend downloading it and reading in detail. The ONS have also published their methodology, which can be found from the linked report page. Like the IFS, this work confirms the pattern that could be seen in the ICNARC data I referred to in my presentation.

I have reproduced below the Main Points section of the ONS report.

1. Main points

Office for National Statistics research published 19 June 2020

The first research that I have seen from the ONS about religion and COVID-19 is the 14-page report “Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by religious group, England and Wales: 2 March to 15 May 2020.”

I recommend visiting the website and reading the full report online. It is clearly written. The text can also be downloaded as a PDF, but the PDF does not contain the Figures. As with the earlier ONS report above, the researchers have been to look at individual deaths and what those individuals reported as their religion in the 2011 census.

I have reproduced just a few paragraphs of the report below.

Main points

“The highest age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) of deaths involving COVID-19 were in the Muslim religious group with 198.9 deaths per 100,000 males and 98.2 deaths per 100,000 females; people who identified as Jewish, Hindu or Sikh also showed higher mortality rates than other groups.”

This is consistent with the high death rates of people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian background. The age-standardisation is important because Muslims in England & Wales are on average much younger than Christians.

“When taking account of region, population density, socio-demographic and household characteristics, and ethnic background, those who identified as Jewish at the time of the 2011 Census showed an increased risk of a death involving COVID-19 compared with the Christian population; Jewish males were at twice the risk of Christian males, with the difference in females being 1.2 times greater risk (additional data and analyses are required to understand this excess risk).”

Statistician's comment

“The risk of death involving COVID-19 varies across religious groups, with those identifying as Muslims, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh showing a higher rate of death than other groups. For the most part the elevated risk of certain religious groups is explained by geographical, socio economic and demographic factors and increased risks associated with ethnicity. However, after adjusting for the above, Jewish males are at twice the risk of Christian males, and Jewish women are also at higher risk. Additional data and analyses are required to understand this excess risk.”

Nick Stripe, Head of Life Events, Office for National Statistics

My concluding comment

What I found striking in “Figure 4: How the risk of death involving COVID-19 varies by religious group for males and females, adjusted for whether someone is of White or non-White ethnicity” on the ONS website is that once you adjust for ethnic differences, as well as the other statistical factors mentioned above, Muslims are at no greater risk of COVID-19 than are Christians. (Christians are the reference group due to their size in the population.)

However, Jews remain at greater risk, and research is needed into possible causes for this.


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