KARACHI: The Women Democratic Front (WDF) has raised its concerns over an increase in infection rate in healthcare workers and the lack of provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to them, especially those working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19 over the past few days in the country.

“The healthcare workers especially the large number of female nursing staff must be provided with PPE against occupational hazard since they return to their families and cannot isolate themselves due to the work burden at home. This is a sheer neglect and incompetence on the part of the federal government,” president of the WDF Ismat Shahjahan said on Tuesday in a meeting held to discuss the increasing vulnerability of working-class people during the ongoing pandemic.

Hospitals must demand from the government facilities and equipment to protect those working in corona facilities, including the sanitation staff, who were neglected in the larger discussion of provision of PPE.

‘Sanitation workers should also be provided with PPE’

In the fight against the pandemic, those who are fighting at the front lines are the most vulnerable to getting infected from the virus and protecting the lives of the front-line workers must be the utmost priority, they said.

“State must ensure the provision of equipment and increase the domestic manufacturing of equipment while ensuring workers safety. The federal government has borrowed from international financial institutions, making advanced procurement under these loans and yet we see the provincial governments crying for PPEs and lifesaving equipment,” added Ismat Shahjahan.

“The lockdown in the country has rendered thousands of daily-wage earners and workers unemployed, the working class must be provided with basic income which meets their basic needs,” said WDF secretary general Alya Bakhshal.

“Organising workers during the time of the crisis is necessary for their survival, pro-people organisations must unite to take this forward with a pro workers agenda, including the protection of lives and livelihoods of all workers,” added Ms Bakhshal.

“We must prepare ourselves by expanding our existing healthcare system with a focus on acquiring ventilators, test kits and PPE. We should learn from the best examples in the world, who used massive testing, bottom-up information sharing and prioritising healthcare workers’ lives in the fight against the pandemic.

“The only way to fight the pandemic is to recognise the right to health as right to life, the global pandemic must be a lesson for the world to bring systemic changes to health and life,” said Dr Tooba Syed, secretary information of the WDF.

WDF also expressed concern at the Supreme Court’s ‘intervention’ in the health emergency response by demanding removal of the country’s top health official Dr Zafar Mirza, in the middle of a crisis.

The WDF demands that the government must ensure provision of PPE to all healthcare workers and sanitation staff at the hospitals on an emergency basis.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2020

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