Following the first few reports of a novel coronavirus affecting a large number of Chinese residents in the city of Wuhan, it was rapidly clear that the disease did not affect everyone to the same degree. Often this is based on socio-political factors, leadership and resilience of the public health infrastructure. The predicted surge in infections due to high viral transmission rates threatened to overwhelm every healthcare system in the world. However, it has become clear that the experience of different population groups or subsets with variable characteristics was not the same. This review assesses pre-existing conditions that were identified as pathophysiological or sociodemographic risk factors of COVID-19. This will allow policymakers to decide what mitigation is needed to reduce those risks and protect the public from infections.