ICN calls on G7 leaders to put nurses at the heart of a new pandemic treaty after WHO confirms 115,000 health and care workers have died from COVID-19

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has called on G7 leaders to prepare and action a global pandemic treaty that focuses on strengthening health systems and prioritising the protection and safety of nurses and healthcare workers.

ICN’s demand for swift action from the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major advanced nations, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, follows latest figures released from the World Health Organization (WHO) that confirm the tragic death toll among health and care workers from COVID-19 has reached 115,000.

“They should prepare and agree a global pandemic treaty that will better prepare and strengthen our health systems, and put the protection and safety of nurses and healthcare workers at its very heart,” ICN Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton said.

“We cannot change the past, but we do not have to repeat it. To honour those we have lost, now is the time for the world to unite, to take our future into our own hands, and to write a history that generations to come will look back on proudly.”

WHO Director Dr Tedros revealed the number of deaths at the recent 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), held virtually from Geneva, Switzerland, from 24-31 May.

Speaking ahead of next week’s G7 meeting in the UK, Mr Catton described the WHA meeting as a historic moment for nurses, for reasons that the profession will want to remember, but also for which it should never forget.

“I’m not aware of any occasion when so many health and care workers have died as a result of a single disease,” Mr Catton said.

“The death toll is the equivalent of more than 200 health and care workers dying every day since the start of the pandemic, but still, the reporting about infections and deaths is inadequate.”

Positively, Mr Catton said the World Health Assembly meeting marked the first time that the Global Nursing and Midwifery Strategy was adopted unanimously. Its message, he said, was clear: we must invest now in nursing education, leadership, jobs and practice, and we need member states to own their new strategy and implement it now.

“Of course, the tragic irony is that if we had done this before, we would have had a better protected healthcare workforce, and fewer of our colleagues would have died,” Mr Catton lamented.

“That’s why we must do all we can now to prevent this situation from ever happening again. I do believe that is possible, but we need our political leaders to show the same courageous, bold and brave leadership that nurses and other healthcare workers have shown throughout this pandemic.”

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