Protect workers during and after lockdowns, urges UN labour agency

Marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has urged States to take action to prevent and control COVID-19 in the workplace.

“The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today”, underscored ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. Without adequate safeguards that meet the strict occupational safety and health criteria needed for bringing workers back, countries risk a resurgence of the virus, according to the UN’s labour agency. However, it noted, that by putting the necessary measures in place, the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace will be minimized.

“In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves”, said Mr. Ryder.

Risk control measures should be specifically adapted to meet the needs of the pandemic’s frontline workers, including, nurses, doctors, cleaners, those in food services and other workers “who risk their own health for us every day”.“It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival”, spelled out the ILO chief.  

And while telecommuting offers new opportunities for employees to keep their jobs, he flagged that “workers must be able to negotiate these arrangements so that they retain balance with other responsibilities, such as caring for children, the sick or the elderly, and of course themselves”.

Risk assessments

In the face of a pandemic: Ensuring Safety and Health at Work, the report highlights the occupational safety and health risks that have arisen from the contagion. It also explores measures to prevent and control the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including psychosocial, ergonomic, and other work-related safety and health issues.The ILO Centenary Declaration, adopted in June 2019, declared that "safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work”.

Workplaces can help combat outbreaks

From past crises, ILO has learned that workplaces can be of vital importance to prevent and control outbreaks. Adequate safety and health measures can play a crucial role in containing the spread of the disease, while protecting workers and society at large.

Governments, employers and workers all have a role to play in tackling COVID-19 crisis, and according to ILO, their collaboration is key. In 2003, ILO began observing the day to stress the prevention of accidents and diseases at work. Also marked on 28 April is the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers, which was organized worldwide by the trades union movement since 1996.

COVID-19 putting routine childhood immunization in danger: UN health agency

As the new coronavirus continues its relentless march across the planet, with nearly 2.9 million cases reported as of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) remains concerned about the pandemic’s impact on other health services, especially for children.

In his latest update on the crisis, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reported that the pandemic has put polio vaccination campaigns on hold, while some countries have scaled back or even shut down routine immunization services.“Every year, more than 116 million infants are vaccinated, or 86% of all children born globally. But there are still more than 13 million children around the world who miss out on vaccination. We know that that number will increase because of COVID-19”, he told journalists.

Myths, misinformation and vaccine shortages

Tedros said even where services are operating, some parents are not taking their children to be vaccinated because of COVID-19 fears. Myths and misinformation about vaccines also “are adding fuel to the fire”, putting young lives at risk.“When vaccination coverage goes down, more outbreaks will occur, including of life-threatening diseases like measles and polio”, he said.Furthermore, border closures and travel disruptions have led to vaccine shortages in at least 21 low and middle-income countries, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“So far, 14 vaccination campaigns supported by Gavi against polio, measles, cholera, human papillomavirus, yellow fever and meningitis have been postponed, which would have immunized more than 13 million people,” Tedros said, adding “the tragic reality is that children will die as a result”.Tedros urged countries to support Gavi’s “ambitious goal” of immunizing 300 million more children by 2025, which will require $7.4 billion in funding.

Solidarity flying high

As declining COVID-19 cases lead to an ease in lockdowns across Europe, the WHO chief urged countries to ensure the trend continues by finding and treating all cases, and conducting more extensive contact tracing.However, Tedros expressed concern about increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries.

“As in all regions, cases and deaths are underreported in many countries in these regions because of low testing capacity”, he said.Therefore, more “solidarity flights” carrying supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers are getting ready for take-off.More than 40 countries in Africa received shipments during the past week.
Overall, WHO has sent PPE items to 105 countries globally, and lab supplies to more than 127 nations.“We will ship many millions more in the weeks ahead, and we’re preparing aggressively,” said Tedros.