AT LEAST 7,000 health workers worldwide have died after being infected with the coronavirus, Amnesty International said on Thursday (3).
Such a huge number of people dying “while trying to save others is a crisis on a staggering scale”, it added, calling for global cooperation to ensure all health workers are provided with adequate protective equipment.
“Every health worker has the right to be safe at work, and it is a scandal that so many are paying the ultimate price,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at the London-based rights group.
“Many months into the pandemic, health workers are still dying at horrific rates in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and the USA, while the rapid spread of infections in South Africa and India show the need for all states to take action.”
At least 1,320 health workers are confirmed to have died from Covid-19 in Mexico, the report said.
Other hard-hit countries included the US (1,077 deaths), the UK (649), Brazil (634), Russia (631), and India (573).
In India, over half of the health worker deaths (292) occurred in the state of Maharashtra.
The total figures were likely to be “a significant underestimate”, as deaths may not have been officially registered in many countries, Amnesty said.
Mexico, which has one of the world’s highest overall fatality tolls from the coronavirus, has kept a detailed record of health worker deaths which may partly explain its high figure.
The Latin American nation has reported 97,632 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among health workers, among a total of more than 610,000.
“There have been reports that hospital cleaners in Mexico are especially vulnerable to infection,” the report noted.
In countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa, health workers have complained about shortages of personal protective equipment and broader working conditions, it added.
“We are calling on all governments to take urgent measures to protect the lives of health workers,” said Cockburn. “As well as increasing the supply of protective equipment, they must listen to health workers who speak out about their working conditions, and respect their rights to organise.
“Throughout the pandemic governments have hailed health workers as heroes, but this rings hollow when so many workers are dying from a lack of basic protection.”