June 16, 2020 / 9:39 PM / 23 days ago

Around 9% of Guinea-Bissau health workers have been infected with COVID-19

BISSAU (Reuters) - More than 170 of Guinea-Bissau’s 2,000 health workers have contracted COVID-19, a World Health Organization expert said on Tuesday, warning that hospitals were close to being overwhelmed.

The tiny West African nation’s under-equipped healthcare system has been struggling to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1,400 people and killed 15. Health authorities have raised the alarm over a lack of oxygen to treat patients.

“The three main Bissau hospitals are currently facing rooms filled with COVID-19 patients and a breakdown in essential medical services,” said Joana Cortez, a WHO expert in Guinea-Bissau, during an online seminar on the impact of the epidemic on Portuguese-speaking African countries.

Cortez said 176 health workers in the country had tested positive for the coronavirus. That amounts to nearly 9% of the country’s total medical staff of about 2,000, according to Reuters calculations based on figures from the health authorities.

“It is a chaotic situation,” Cortez said.

Health workers are vulnerable because of a lack of high- quality protective gear, according to Tumane Balde, who heads an interministerial COVID-19 commission.

Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Peter Cooney

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