Story at a glance
- The World Health Organization on Thursday called on governments to better protect medical workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
- “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
- The WHO noted that the pandemic has also placed tremendous psychological stress on health care workers battling the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said health care workers make up about 1 in 6 cases of coronavirus around the world and more than a third of cases in some countries.
“While health workers represent less than 3% of the population in the large majority of countries and less than 2% in almost all low- and middle-income countries, around 14% of COVID-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers,” the health agency said in a statement Thursday.
“In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35%,” the WHO said, noting that COVID-19 has exposed health workers and their families to “unprecedented” levels of risk and thousands have lost their lives globally.
The WHO noted that its data was limited as it’s not possible to determine whether medical front line workers were infected in the workplace or in their community setting. The numbers could also be skewed because health workers are typically prioritized for testing.
The pandemic has also placed tremendous psychological stress on health care workers battling the virus on the front lines. In addition to the physical risk, the WHO said a recent review found one in four health workers reported experiencing depression and anxiety during the outbreak, and one in three suffered insomnia.
During a news briefing marking World Patient Safety Day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged governments to address the threats health workers face and announced the launch of the Health Worker Safety Charter. The charter includes steps to better protect workers and improve their mental health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role health workers play to relieve suffering and save lives,” Tedros said. “No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe.”
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