An article published by Oxford Academic (30/09/23) discusses how previous outbreaks showed the need to protect healthcare workers (HCWs), but lessons were disregarded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by international and national governments. Many countries had flaws in preparedness strategy, culture, and resources, leading to insufficient HCW protection initially. When the pandemic began, many experts advocated a precautionary approach to worker protection in line with standards.
Some Asian countries had relatively stringent protective measures, but many workers globally were left unprotected as WHO and governments did not adequately pursue COVID-19 workplace protections. Improvements were uneven as the pandemic progressed.
A key issue was underestimating airborne exposure risks, particularly for HCWs caring for potentially infectious patients. A disciplined strategy of source control, ventilation, protective equipment, and vaccination is needed.
Even with the pandemic waning, control measures appropriate for airborne infections will remain necessary, as will adaptations for long-term COVID-19 disabilities and new work practices.
In summary, lessons from past outbreaks on HCW protections were initially disregarded globally, leaving many workers vulnerable. A comprehensive strategy involving multiple controls is essential now and in the future to protect against airborne diseases.
The full report can be read for free here.