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Global nurses group pushes WHO for stronger stance on COVID-19 protections

Lawmakers urge permanent OSHA standard
Photo: Halfpoint/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — Global Nurses United is demanding stronger COVID-19 guidance from the World Health Organization, including a call for more personal protective equipment for health care workers and acknowledgement from WHO on how the virus is spread.

“Nurses and other health care workers in many countries still don’t have the personal protective equipment and basic safety precautions that they need to care for their patients safely,” reads a letter sent Nov. 19 – signed by nurses from 24 different countries – to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Since January, WHO has … refused to recognize the amassing scientific evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is spread through airborne/aerosol transmission.”

The nursing organization is asking that WHO recommend optimal PPE, which includes a NIOSH-certified powered air-purifying respirator, coveralls incorporating head and shoe coverings that meet viral impenetrability standards, and medical grade gloves for those working directly with infected patients.

The minimum level of protection, according to GNU, should be an N95 single-use respirator, a faceshield or goggles for eye protection, medical grade gloves, and a fluid-impermeable or resistant isolation gown.

GNU also asked WHO to strike down any recommendations regarding health care workers not needing PPE if they stay 3 feet from a COVID-19 patient, limiting PPE if they’re not in close contact with COVID patients, reserving N95 or other respirators only for aerosol-generating procedures, and allowing health care facilities to decontaminate and reuse N95s and other single-use PPE.


GNU, which includes Maryland-based National Nurses United, claims in the letter that WHO’s “weak guidance” on COVID-19 has left health care workers and patients more vulnerable during the pandemic. The letter also accuses WHO of failing to meet its moral and ethical obligation to patients and health care workers as stated in its values charter.

GNU is a federation of nurse and health care worker unions around the world that includes workers in the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Italy and Spain.

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