1,15,000 healthcare workers died due to COVID-19: WHO chief

Geneva: Nearly 1,15,000 health and care workers have died due to Covid since the pandemic began last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, hailing their sacrifice and asserting the need to protect and invest in healthcare workforce as a matter of urgency.

“We estimate that at least 1,15,000 health and care workers have paid the ultimate price in the service of others. Health and care workers do heroic things, but they are not superheroes. They are humans like the rest of us. Many feel frustrated, helpless and unprotected, with a lack of access to personal protective equipment and vaccines, and the tools to save lives,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the opening of the WHO’s 74th World Health Assembly (WHA).

The 74th WHA is taking place online from May 24 to June 1.

“We owe them so much, and yet globally health and care workers often lack the protection, the equipment, the training, the decent pay, the safe working conditions and the respect they deserve. If we have any hope of achieving a healthier, safer, fairer future, every Member State must protect and invest in its health and care workforce as a matter of urgency,” Ghebreyesus added.

He lamented that so many healthcare workers lost their lives in the last 18 months and many more will lose as long as the pandemic rages. Based on current trends, the number of deaths will overtake last year’s total within the next three weeks, Ghebreyesus said.

“Since our Health Assembly started this morning, almost 1,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19. And in the time it takes me to make these remarks, a further 400 will die. This is very tragic,” he said.

Lauding healthcare workers’ efforts, particularly through the pandemic, the WHO chief said: “Today I ask you not for a moment’s silence, but to make the loudest noise you can. Please join me in clapping, shouting and stamping your feet for every health and care worker everywhere.”