Honoring the healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19

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The novel coronavirus (SARS‐CoV‐2) has rapidly spread across the world from its origin in Wuhan, China in late 2019. The resultant coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has placed an enormous burden on healthcare systems due to the high transmission rates, prevalence of severe disease and mortality. From balconies, windows and door fronts around the world, citizens have applauded healthcare workers on the frontline of the Covid-19 response for their commitment and care. Despite these visible shows of support, all is not well – because in addition to the risks of exposure to a largely invisible enemy, these healthcare workers also face threats of various kinds in the workplace. During pandemics, as the world faces a shutdown or slowdown in daily activities and individuals are encouraged to implement social distancing so as to reduce interactions between people, consequently reducing the possibility of new infections, healthcare workers usually go in the opposite direction. Millions of health care workers—physicians, nurses, technicians, other health care professionals, and hospital support staff, as well as first responders including emergency rescue personnel, law enforcement officers, and others who provide essential services and products—around the world have faced the challenge of providing care for patients with Covid-19, while often ill-equipped and poorly prepared, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. Often during this global health pandemic healthcare workers have been invoked as heroes by the policymakers. In a disorienting experience like a pandemic, it’s reassuring to talk of heroes. We can picture the mythic hero charging the battlefield despite the danger, getting the job done no matter the obstacles, and paying no heed to possible or actual injury. However it is a definition of convenience. The hero image burns so bright that it eclipses any light shining on the failures of the system that could turn heroes into involuntary martyrs. The International Council of Nurses said recently that it believes at least 90,000 healthcare workers had been infected and many of them died of this pandemic. However there is a scandalous lack of accurate data that has led to a serious underestimation of the infection rate among healthcare workers and the number of deaths. The risk of viral transmission to healthcare workers has been a concern since the start of the outbreak and the first person to raise concerns about the illness to the international community was Dr Li Wen‐Liang, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan who sadly died of the disease that he likely contracted while at work. Healthcare workers have been on the front lines of the global effort to care for patients with Covid-19, while putting themselves at risk for infection. Many healthcare workers have died, from dozens of countries, professions, and specia ties. Global Alliance for Infections in Surgery honors them all and considers them the symbol of the fight against Covid-19.

Health care workers on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19 deserve to be recognized and commended for their lifesaving efforts and personal sacrifices amid increased medical risk — and in some places amid ostracization, harassment and attack. Healthcare workers have been the world’s life-savers. They have risked their own health and too often sacrificing time with their family to help the patients suffering from Covid-19. Although many communities have made it a point to thank medical professionals, in other locations there have been worrying reports of harassment and violence against healthcare workers. It is very difficult to make a list of all healthcare workers who died around the world due to lack of data, however we should never forget their sacrifice made to fulfill their mission. We ask that all people around the world pay tribute to all the healthcare workers who have fallen while providing all the needed care to the persons affected by Covid-19.