Irish health care workers among world’s worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic – dpa international


Face masks and hand sanitiser for sale in a Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s front line medics have been hit harder than counterparts elsewhere by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the head of the country’s main nurses’ union said during a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.

Addressing the Dáil (parliament) Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the country has the world’s highest rate of infection among health care workers.

Ireland’s Department of Health has confirmed 25,383 coronavirus cases since February 29, with 8,161 of those diagnosed among health care workers.

Ní Sheaghdha described the numbers as an “absolute scandal” and warned that hospitals are facing staffing shortages.

Though the Geneva-based International Council of Nurses (ICN) said on June 6 that “there is no systematic and standardized record of the number of nurses and health care workers who have contracted the disease or died from it,” it added that data from national associations suggested a global total of 230,000 health care infections and 600 nurse deaths.

Ní Sheaghdha said on Tuesday that “our figures were the highest” – going by numbers she said were discussed during a call with the ICN last week.

Though comparisons are difficult due to disparities in how countries report novel coronavirus cases and fatalities, Ireland’s 1,717 coronavirus-related deaths rank as the 11th-highest level worldwide – measured by deaths-per-100,000 people – according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.

Around half of Ireland’s pandemic deaths were in nursing or care homes for the elderly. Speaking to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response on June 11, the World Health Organisation’s David Nabarro said Ireland was at “upper end of the spectrum” for nursing home deaths.

But Ireland’s daily new coronavirus and related deaths counts have plummeted in recent weeks, with four and two respectively announced on Tuesday.

After more than three months of restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic, restaurants and places of worship can reopen to up to 50 people at a time from June 29.

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