Global Nurses United (GNU), a federation of the world’s premiere nurse and health care worker unions, including the CFNU, on November 19 sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), demanding that the WHO strengthen its guidance on Covid-19.
“Nurses and other health care workers in many countries still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) and basic safety precautions that they need to care for their patients safely,” the letter reads. “Since January, WHO has neglected the precautionary principle—the idea that we should not wait for proof of harm before taking action to protect health—and has refused to recognize the amassing scientific evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is spread through airborne/aerosol transmission. WHO’s weak guidance has left nurses, health care workers, and patients unprotected, exposed, and infected.”
The letter was addressed to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and signed by GNU affiliates in 24 nations: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Honduras, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Uganda, the United States, and Uruguay.
On January 30, 2020, nearly two months prior to WHO’s official declaration of a pandemic, GNU member unions called upon WHO to strengthen guidance on infection prevention and control, including that airborne precautions be implemented when health care workers care for suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients. Implementation of such precautions would have saved an untold number of lives, say nurses.
Instead, as the letter points out, “WHO’s guidance on PPE and infection control ignored the precautionary principle, remains unprotective, and continues to endanger nurses, health care workers, and their patients.”
In the letter, GNU calls on the WHO to fully recognize the updated science, recognizing that airborne/aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2—the virus causing Covid-19—is a significant mode of transmission. GNU also calls on the WHO to strengthen recommendations on PPE, and update its infection control and other applicable guidance to fully and protectively address the risks of transmission from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases.
The letter also calls on the WHO to recognize the expertise of those on the front lines, encouraging the organization to “engage direct care nurses and health care workers and their unions in developing guidance on SARS- CoV-2 and Covid-19.”
Global Nurses United is a federation of the premiere nurse and health care worker unions in 29 nations, coming together to step up the fight against austerity, privatization, and attacks on public health—and to work for nurses’ and workers’ rights and improved patient care for all.