02.08.2021

UK frontline worker death rate second highest among 79 countries, report shows

The human rights organisation said at least 540 frontline staff have died after contracting the virus in England and Wales – second only to Russia, which has recorded 545 deaths.

The UK has one of the highest death tolls in the world among health and social care workers during the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by Amnesty International.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 268 deaths involving Covid-19 among social care workers were registered in England and Wales between 9 March and 25 May.

In the same period, the ONS reported that 272 deaths involving the virus were registered among healthcare staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives, nurse assistants, paramedics and ambulance staff, and hospital porters.

Amnesty International said it has analysed a wide range of data, which found that more 3,000 health workers have died after contracting Covid-19 in 79 countries.

It added that this figure is likely to be a “significant underestimate” due to underreporting, while noting that the UK is one of few countries to distinguish between deaths of social care workers and healthcare workers – increasing the total relative to other nations.

PA confirmed the names of 195 health and social care workers who have died after contracting Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “We have to understand whether these deaths were avoidable, and what led to this terrible outcome.

“There appears to have been a catastrophic failure to provide proper PPE and a failure to grapple with the alarmingly high death rates among Bame health workers.

“This crisis is far from over and an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is urgently needed.”

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The ONS has found health workers, including those with jobs such as doctors and nurses, do not have higher rates of death involving Covid-19 when compared with the rate of people with similar age and sex in the general population. But it did find a statistically higher risk of death among social care workers. It did not account for ethnicity which is a known risk factor for the disease.

The human rights organisation called for an “urgent public inquiry” into the government’s handling of the crisis, to ensure that “lessons are learnt and that there is proper accountability”.

Ministers came under criticism at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic over supplies of PPE, such as masks and gowns, after healthcare workers reported shortages.

In May, a survey by the British Medical Association found that almost half of doctors (48 per cent) had sourced their own equipment or relied on a donation when none was available.

Meanwhile, social care providers raised concerns over insufficient equipment in settings, as well as a lack of testing for both staff and residents in the early stages of the pandemic.

Some 2 billion items of PPE have been provided to healthcare workers, while 28 billion items have been ordered to provide a continuous supply to meet the future needs of those on the front line, according to the government.

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