COVID-19 morbidity in an ethnic minority: changes during the first year of the pandemic

M. Saban, V. Myers, G. Peretz, S. Avni, R. Wilf-Miron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ethnic minorities have been more susceptible to infection and demonstrated poorer outcomes. This study describes COVID-19 morbidity and mortality by ethnic group, represented by Arab and Jewish localities in Israel, during the different waves of the outbreak and addresses sociocultural aspects of the pandemic. Study design: A retrospective national archive study was conducted in Israel. Methods: Data were obtained from the Ministry of Health's database, including daily information on Arab, Jewish or mixed localities, from February 2020 to February 2021. Results: During the first wave of the pandemic, the incidence of COVID-19 in Arab compared with Jewish localities was 67% lower and mortality was 85% lower, in addition to lower rates of severe disease requiring hospitalisation. During the second and third waves, these trends reversed, with the proportion of positive tests, incidence and mortality in Arab localities reaching and then surpassing rates in Jewish localities. By September 2020, COVID-19 mortality was twice as high in Arab compared with Jewish localities. Conclusions: After low morbidity during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in infections occurred in the Arab population during subsequent waves, to match and surpass the high incidence seen in the Jewish population. This unique pattern highlights the changing experiences of a minority group as the pandemic progressed and demonstrates how COVID-19 exacerbates existing disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-244
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Arab
  • COVID-19
  • Ethnic
  • Minority
  • Morbidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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