Health Workers Under Attack during the COVID-19 pandemic

“It is especially disturbing to see that some governments are punishing workers who voice their concerns about working conditions that may threaten their lives. Health workers on the frontline are the first to know if government policy is not working, and authorities who silence them cannot seriously claim to be prioritising public health.”
Sanhita Ambast, Amnesty International’s Researcher and Advisor on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic in March 2020, health and essential workers have played an extraordinary role in the response to it. Across the world, they have put their health and well-being at risk, working in very difficult circumstances and often with very little support, to ensure that we are able to access the essential services we need, including health care, food and other nutritional supplies, and emergency services.

Despite this, states have repeatedly failed to protect them and their human rights. Health and essential workers across the world have faced enormous challenges in doing their jobs. They have been left exposed, silenced, and attacked.

Exposed: Thiusands of health workers across the globe are known to have lost their lives due to COVID-19  during the pandemic, and several others have been working in unsafe environments with increased exposure to the disease due to shortages in personal protective equipment(PPE).

Silenced: Health and essential workers have faced reprisals from the authorities and their employers simply for speaking out about safety concerns at their workplace.

Attacked: Health and essential workers have experienced discrimination, violence, and stigma from members of the public, just for doing their job.

New analysis by Amnesty International has found that at least 7,000 health workers have died around the world after contracting COVID-19. At least 1,320 health workers are confirmed to have died in Mexico alone, the highest known figure for any country.


We are currently focusing on three cases around the world:

Malaysia: On 2 June 2020, Malaysian police dispersed a peaceful picket against a hospital cleaning services company. Picketers’ complaints included allegations of unfair treatment of union members and insufficient PPE for cleaners. Five activists were arrested, remanded overnight, and charged for “unauthorised gathering”, violating their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Add your name to the call for the charges to be dropped

Russia: Doctor Tatyana Revva, from the intensive care unit in Kalach-on-Don and a whistle-blower, is facing formal reprimand and potential dismissal after she repeatedly complained to the hospital’s management about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers, as well as other work-related issues. She might also face criminal prosecution for libel following the complaint her hospital manager had filed with the police.  

Add your name to the call to stop harassment of health care workers

Egypt: At least nine health care workers have been arrested for raising safety concerns and criticizing the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. They are being detained under vague charges of “spreading false news” and “terrorism”. The Egyptian authorities have subjected health care workers who speak out to arbitrarily detentions, threats, harassment, and punitive administrative measures.

Add your name to the call for the immediate release of all health workers detained solely for expressing their views


Here are some suggested general messages. Add links to action (above) and report (see further below).

Governments must be held accountable for failing to protect health and essential workers from COVID-19 #ExposedSilencedAttacked

Health workers can help governments improve their response to the pandemic and keep everyone safe. But they can’t do this if they are in prison or silenced. #ExposedSilencedAttacked

Health workers faced retaliation in every region after raising safety concerns in the context of the COVID-19 response. #ExposedSilencedAttacked

Around the world, health and essential workers organized strikes, protests or threatened to strike due to their working conditions #ExposedSilencedAttacked

#ExposedSilencedAttackedfor doing their job. If health workers and essential workers are not safe, neither are we. Protect essential workers. Protect health workers. Protect everyone.


Read the Amnesty report: Health workers silenced, exposed, and attacked

STAY TUNED! More actions are planned on this issue.

For more information: contact Hilary Homes, Crisis and Tactical Advisor (