GENEVA – The International Council of Nurses (ICN) said Wednesday it believes at least 90,000 health care workers had been infected and more than 260 nurses had died in the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Failure by governments to record infection rates and deaths of health care staff “is a scandal that puts staff at higher risk” and underestimates the true scale of the problem, it said in a statement released in Geneva.
“The lack of official data on infections and deaths among nurses and other health care workers is scandalous,” ICN chief executive officer Howard Catton said. “Nurses and health care workers have been put at greater risk because of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and poor preparedness for this pandemic.”
The ICN called on governments to immediately start keeping accurate records of infections and deaths among health care workers as failure to do so increases the chances of more deaths and fails to honor those who have died.
In April, the ICN reported that more than 100 nurses from around the world had died after contracting Covid-19.
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported 23,000 infections among health care workers, it said.
Figures released by the ICN and WHO were shocking, but that the ICN now believes them to significantly underestimate the situation.
The council has gathered further information from its member National Nursing Associations, some official government figures, and media reports, which suggest that at least 90,000 health care workers have been infected, and more than 260 nurses have died.
It said thousands of nurses have been infected with Covid-19 and hundreds have already died, but governments are not able to provide accurate data as they are not collecting the data.
Such a lack of definite figures has led to a serious underestimation of the infection rate among nurses and the number of deaths, it added.
The ICN said this failure to record both infection rates and deaths among health care workers is putting more nurses and their patients in danger.
“ICN is calling for data on health care worker infections and deaths to be systematically collected by national governments and held centrally at the WHO,” it said.
Such a move would inform prevention strategies and address fundamental issues, including testing and lack of PPE.