At least 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected by COVID-19 and more than 260 nurses have lost their lives to the pandemic, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said on Wednesday, warning that numbers could be much higher.
The figures released by the ICN are based on data from just 30 countries. It shows that, on average, 6% of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 are among healthcare workers.
"If that proportion were repeated globally, the 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world would yield a figure for the number of infected healthcare workers of 210,000," the ICN said in a statement.
It also stressed that governments cannot say exactly how many healthcare workers have been affected and that "this lack of accurate data has led to a serious underestimation of the infection rate among nurses, and the number of deaths."
The organisation is calling on governments to systematically collect the data and hand it over to the World Health organisation (WHO).
"If governments fail to act on this, I fear we may look back on this pandemic and count the dead among our nursing colleagues in the thousands," ICN's CEO, Howard Catton, said.
He also warned that the ICN "will make sure that when the post-COVID-19 inquiries take place, as they inevitably will, political leaders will be asked why that information was not collected."
In Italy, at least 154 doctors and dentists have succumbed to the disease, according to a tally updated daily by the country's National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists.
Britain's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said in late April that 82 NHS staff and 16 social care workers had fallen victims to the virus.
In the US, at least 170 health care workers, including 60 registered nurses, had died by April 28, according to the National Nurses United union.