—As mounting reports of infections, illness and attacks among health workers fighting COVID-19
The World Health Organisation has revealed that data from many countries across WHO regions indicate that COVID-19 infections among health workers are far greater than those in the general population; although, according to the World Health Body, the data are not representative.
What is apparent, according to the WHO findings, is that COVID-19 has exposed health workers and their families to unprecedented levels of risk.
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.
In some countries, the proportion can be as high as 35%. However, data availability and quality are limited, and it is not possible to establish whether health workers were infected in the work place or in community settings. Thousands of health workers infected with COVID-19 have lost their lives worldwide.
In addition to physical risks, the pandemic has placed extraordinary levels of psychological stress on health workers exposed to high-demand settings for long hours, living in constant fear of disease exposure while separated from family and facing social stigmatization.
Before COVID-19 hit, medical professionals were already at higher risk of suicide in all parts of the world. A recent review of health care professionals found one in four reported depression and anxiety, and one in three suffered insomnia during COVID-19.
WHO recently highlighted an alarming rise in reports of verbal harassment, discrimination and physical violence among health workers in the wake of COVID-19.