Amnesty International report highlights failures to protect health workers during COVID-19 pandemic

A new report highlights the challenges faced by health workers globally and the broader structural issues that have exacerbated these challenges.

Health and essential workers, including physiotherapists, have played a huge role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these workers face greater exposure to COVID-19 and are at greater risk of infection, serious illness, and even death.

A new report, published by Amnesty International, exposes the seriousness of the situation, revealing how many countries and territories are not adequately protecting their health and essential workers. Amnesty International calls for governments to be held accountable for the “deaths of health and essential workers who they have failed to protect from COVID-19”.

Jonathon Kruger, World Physiotherapy chief executive, said: “COVID-19 has taken a huge human toll and many of us have been affected by the loss of family, friends, and colleagues. This report highlights how governments could have acted to protect health care workers, including physiotherapists, in the acute response to COVID-19.”

The report is based on monitoring by Amnesty International researchers on the rights of health and essential workers in 63 countries and territories; a literature review of media reports, academic articles, and reporting by unions and other civil society actors on the challenges faced; and a collation of data from multiple sources on the numbers of health and essential workers who have contracted COVID-19 and who have died as a result.

Estimates currently suggest that “at least 3,000 health workers are known to have died after contracting COVID-19 in 79 countries around the world”. This figure is likely to be a significant underestimate, due to under-reporting and the differences in counting across countries.

The report highlights unfair pay and lack of benefits, stigma and violence, mental health concerns, and broader structural problems. 

It also focuses on shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), which were reported in nearly all of the 63 countries and territories included in the report.

World Physiotherapy’s own campaign #PPE4PT has been calling for governments around the world to provide the correct PPE for all physiotherapists so they are able to work with adequate protection and in safe environments. 

Campaign resources to support member organisations raise the issue of PPE are available in English, French, Spanish, and European Portuguese. Find out more about the #PPE4PT campaign and download the campaign toolkit.  

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