Covid-19 has killed at least 17,000 frontline health workers globally, figures show

Jennifer Rigby
·2 min read
One health worker has died every 30 mins during the pandemic, Amnesty International said - Mark Felix/AFP
One health worker has died every 30 mins during the pandemic, Amnesty International said - Mark Felix/AFP

At least 17,000 health workers around the world have died of Covid-19, or one every half an hour in the last year, according to Amnesty International.

Those numbers are likely to be an underestimate as the data remains incomplete, the new analysis from Amnesty, Public Services International and UNI Global Union suggested.

The organisations called for vaccines to be rolled out more quickly for frontline health workers around the globe. They also stressed the importance of including groups often overlooked but at equal risk, including cleaners, community health workers and social care workers.

Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, said: “For one health worker to die from Covid-19 every 30 minutes is both a tragedy and an injustice.

“Having risked their lives throughout the pandemic, it’s time they were prioritised for life-saving vaccines. Urgent action must be taken to close the huge global inequalities in vaccine access, so a community health worker in Peru is protected as much as a doctor in the UK.”

In most countries, health workers have been prioritised for vaccines, but the unequal coverage of vaccines around the world means that many remain unprotected.

Half of the world’s doses have been administered in just 10 rich countries, while more than 100 countries have not started vaccination campaigns, including among health workers.

Shortages in personal protective equipment have been a major factor in the death toll, the new analysis found. An Amnesty International report in the summer found that there had been shortages in every one of the 63 countries monitored.

The data on Covid-19 mortality comes from figures published by governments, unions, media and civil society organisations, but in many countries the numbers are incomplete, making comparisons between different nations difficult, Amnesty said.

Based on the analysis, deaths among health workers make up around 0.7 per cent of the 2.56m Covid-19 fatalities globally.

From the Red Zone
From the Red Zone

The analysis also pointed out the risks to care workers, including recent data from the British government showing that men in the care, leisure or service industries were three times more likely to have died of Covid-19 compared to other working professionals.

Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, said: “These deaths are horrific, catastrophic, and reflect only a fraction of the pandemic’s real costs to care workers around the world.

"A virus does not differentiate between a surgeon and a nursing home worker or home care assistant, and neither should our approach to vaccinations, protective equipment, and safety protocols for care workers exposed to Covid-19.”

Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security