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Chinese nurses hug during a ceremoney celebrating International Nurses Day, Wuhan, China Chinese nurses hug during a ceremoney celebrating International Nurses Day, Wuhan, China  (ANSA)

“If nothing changes, healthcare worker deaths could reach the thousands"

The International Council of Nurses releases a statement decrying governments’ failure to monitor infection and death rates of healthcare workers.

By Vatican News

Last Wednesday, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) called on governments to better monitor and record infection and death rates of health workers. It wrote that their failure to have already done so, “increases the chances of more deaths and fails to honour those who have died”.

Thousands of nurses infected

In a statement released on their website, ICN wrote that thousands of nurses have been infected with COVID-19 and hundreds have already died. However, “governments cannot say exactly how many because they are not collecting the data”, it says. Thus there has been a lack of accurate data, leading to a “serious underestimation of the infection rate among nurses, and the number of deaths”.

Estimations of deaths due to covid-19 among nurses

Last month, ICN reported “more than 100 nurses from around the world had died after contracting COVID-19”. On the other hand, “the World Health Organisation (WHO) had reported 23,000 healthcare worker infections”.

ICN now believes that the figures reported by both sources are “shocking”, but may actually be much lower than they really are.

ICN has gathered further information from National Nursing Associations, government figures and media reports. From that study, ICN estimates that “at least 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected, and more than 260 nurses have died”.

“ICN’s data is from 30 countries. It shows that, on average, 6% of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 are among healthcare workers, with a range from 0% to 18%. If that proportion were repeated globally, the 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world would yield a figure for the number of infected healthcare workers of 210,000”.

Consequences of lack of data

ICN’s Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton warned that “the lack of official data on infections and deaths among nurses and other healthcare workers is scandalous. Nurses and healthcare workers have been put at greater risk because of the lack of PPE and poor preparedness for this pandemic. As a result, we have seen infection rates and, tragically, deaths rise on a daily basis. Governments’ failure to collect this information in a consistent way means we do not have the data that would add to the science that could improve infection control and prevention measures and save the lives of other healthcare workers.

If governments fail to act on this, I fear we may look back on this pandemic and count the dead among our nursing colleagues in the thousands.”

12 May 2020, 13:01