FRONT LINE WORKERS

10,000 African health workers contract Covid-19

WHO said over 750 000 Covid-19 cases and over 15,000 deaths have been reported, South Africa being the worst hit

In Summary

• Data from 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa showed health workers accounted for five per cent of infections; in four countries they comprised up to 10 per cent of all infections.

• WHO surveyed 30,000 health facilities on the continent and found only only 16 per cent scored above 75 per in assessment of infrastructure, preparation and care. 

Nurses wear protective gear during a demonstration of preparations for coronavirus cases at the Mbagathi Hospital isolation centre.
PPEs: Nurses wear protective gear during a demonstration of preparations for coronavirus cases at the Mbagathi Hospital isolation centre.
Image: REUTERS

More than 10,000 healthcare workers have contracted Covid-19 across 40 African countries, WHO has reported.

In a press statement released from Brazzaville, Congo, on July 23, WHO said front line medical staff are facing major challenges.

“This comes as Covid-19 cases in Africa appear to be gathering pace. Some countries are approaching a critical number of infections that can place stress on health systems,” WHO said.

The World Health Organization said more than 750,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 15,000 deaths have been reported, adding that South Africa is the worst-hit.

“This has very real consequences and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa said.

Data from 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone showed health workers accounted for five per cent of infections, while in four countries they represent as much as 10 per cent of all infections.

The high number, according to WHO, is caused by inadequate access to personal protective equipment, or PPEs, and weak infection prevention and control measures.

“Surging global demand for protective equipment as well as global restrictions on travel have triggered supply shortages,” WHO noted.

Health workers also risk exposure to asymptomatic patients seeking other services and suffer from a heavy workload or lack of preparedness during emergencies.

“One infection among health workers is one too many,” Dr Moeti said.

“Doctors, nurses and other health professionals are our mothers, brothers and sisters. They are helping to save lives endangered by Covid-19. We must ensure they have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe.”

WHO surveyed 30,000 health facilities in Africa and found only 16 per cent had quality assessment scores of above 75 per cent.

“Many health centres were found to lack the infrastructure necessary to implement key infection prevention measures, or to prevent overcrowding,” WHO said.

WHO said across the continent it has trained more 50,000 health workers in infection prevention and control and it plans to train more than 200,000 additional workers.

It said 41 million items of personal protective equipment are ready to be shipped from China to 47 African countries. Shipments for 23 of the countries are to begin this weekend.

(Edited by V. Graham)