Zimbabwean and other ethnic minority NHS staff could be taken off the front-line over concerns they are more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Figures have shown 63 per cent of all health and social care workers who have died from coronavirus are from ethnic minority backgrounds, despite only making up 16 per cent of the workforce.

Hospitals received a letter from NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and its chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, according to the Telegraph.

The letter reads: 'Emerging UK and international data suggests that people from BAME backgrounds are also being disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

'Public Health England have been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to investigate this. In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis, we commend employers should risk-assess staff at potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.'

This could mean that BAME doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are given lower risk or remote jobs away from coronavirus wards.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president-elect of the Royal College of Surgeons, said until experts work out why almost two-thirds of NHS staff killed by Covid-19 are from BAME groups they should be shielded.

He told Sky News today: 'They [BAME people] are a particularly at-risk group. Like other at-risk groups, I think they need to not be put in positions where they're not quite so at risk. We don't really quite know why yet, but it's important they are removed from - if you like - from danger.'