COVID-19 Takes Toll On Mental Health Of Europe’s Medics

This handout picture made available by Madrid´s regional government, Comunidad de Madrid, shows patients arriving at the temporary hospital set up for coronavirus patients at a pavilion in Ifema convention and exhibition center in Madrid, on March 21, 2020. COMUNIDAD DE MADRID / AFP
This handout picture made available by Madrid´s regional government, Comunidad de Madrid, shows patients arriving at the temporary hospital set up for coronavirus patients at a pavilion in Ifema convention and exhibition center in Madrid, on March 21, 2020. COMUNIDAD DE MADRID / AFP


Steve, a paramedic in northeast England, contracted the coronavirus two months ago. Then his wife fell ill. Both recovered but throughout they were concerned about passing it on to their two young sons.

“On my return to work, I couldn’t sleep properly, as I was worried that I could still bring the virus home and that I could still get it again,” the 46-year-old told AFP.

“I never thought I would ever have to work on the front line in a pandemic. I do wish it was just a dream and when I wake up the world will be back to how it was.”

Doctors, nurses and paramedics in full protective clothing have become an enduring image of the pandemic.

But stress and anxiety brought on by dealing with the high levels of serious illness and death have become commonplace on the medical frontline.

Now, professional bodies and experts in Europe’s worst-hit countries want more support to tackle the psychological impact on staff — particularly if a second wave strikes.

READ ALSO: EU Agency To Set Up ‘Independent’ Research On COVID-19 Vaccine

“We’ve got all the ingredients for a major risk of post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Belgian mental health expert Xavier Noel.

Noel, a clinical psychologist in Brussels, singled out nurses as of most concern, given their proximity to seriously ill patients and the dying.

“They’ve faced a totally unusual death rate and way of dying, in a more dehumanised context, without the presence of families to support them,” he said.

– Depression and suicide risk –

Europe has officially seen nearly 175,000 deaths from more than two million cases, and across the continent the battle to save lives has taken a punishing toll.

In Belgium, studies indicated that more than twice as many healthcare workers than usual had thought about quitting the profession, and levels of unhappiness were four times higher.

Another found alcohol consumption highest among healthcare professionals.

In France, one healthcare workers’ support association said it was receiving more than 70 calls a day from medics about the crisis.

Some seven in 10 were from women and a handful of calls were even deemed to indicate “an imminent risk of suicide”.

In Spain, more than 50,000 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19 — 22 percent of the total cases in the country, according to the health ministry.

Anxiety is rife, a study by Complutense University of Madrid found, adding that just over half of the 1,200 medics it questioned had “depressive symptoms”.

A similar number (53 percent) showed signs “compatible with post-traumatic stress”, the study said.

“We believe an urgent psychological intervention is necessary for this group if the much-feared second wave materialises,” said the report’s authors, Lourdes Luceno Moreno and Jesus Martin Garcia.

“We are going to see professionals emotionally damaged and a health system without the capacity to respond.”

The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan similarly found seven in 10 healthcare professionals in the worst-hit regions of Italy were exhausted.

Nine in 10 had suffered psychological stress. Many reported increased irritability, trouble sleeping and night terrors, as well as emotional breakdowns.

Researcher Serena Barello said the normal stresses of the job had been exacerbated by the increased workload, difficult working conditions and the raft of unknowns about the virus.

That had put their health “seriously at risk, not just physically but also emotionally and psychologically”, she added.

– ‘Hero’ label adds pressure –

In the UK — whose death toll is second only to that of the United States — the country’s only charity offering mental health support for first responders is also warning of a looming crisis.

The Laura Hyde Foundation, set up in memory of a nurse who took her own life in 2016, said it had been inundated with calls from nurses, doctors and paramedics.

Last week, it launched a “No Mask for Mental Health” campaign to raise awareness of the psychological impact of the outbreak and provide support.

“Healthcare staff everywhere have been really touched by all the love they’ve been getting from the public,” said Jennifer Hawkins, clinical lead at the foundation.

“But the label ‘hero’ can, at times, put them under even greater pressure.

“The harsh reality of their work is having a significant impact on mental health — and we must make it OK for medical professionals not to suffer in silence; to prescribe for themselves what they would prescribe for others and ask for help,” Hawkins said.


Curfew: Lagos NMA Directs Doctors, Health Workers To Stay At Home From 6pm Today


The Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association has directed its members to sit at home from 6 pm today, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

This follows the conflicting order restricting the movement of essential workers amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a statement signed by the Chairman, Dr. Saliu Oseni and the Secretary of the association, Dr. Moronkola Ramon, the NMA deplored the comment of the Commissioner of Police in Lagos state to the effect that essential workers, including doctors and other health workers, are not exempted from the restriction.

“We have observed that despite the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which was clear on the exemption of essential workers including doctors and other health workers from the ongoing lockdown movement restriction.

“The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, has been issuing conflicting directives on social and mainstream media to effect that essential workers including doctors and other health workers are not exempted.

The association revealed that the confusion has led to the harassment and intimidation of its members and other health workers, including stopping an ambulance from conveying a patient from getting to its destination.

“As a direct result of the conflicting directives of the government and Lagos State Commissioner of Police, the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), was inundated yesterday (Tuesday, May 19, 2020) evening with several cases of harassment and intimidation of doctors and other health-workers by officers and men of the Lagos State police command on the direct order of the commissioner of police to the extent that even ambulances carrying patients with emergency cases were impounded.

“The NMA has resolved that it is presently unsafe for members to continue to provide healthcare services under the arrangement”.

The association vowed that its members will not go back to work until a written statement is issued by the government and police authorities stating in clear terms the status of essential workers as the curfew enforcement continues.

“All medical doctors in Lagos State are hereby advised to proceed on a sit-at-home, in their best interest starting from 6 pm today Wednesday, May 20, 2020, indefinitely, until otherwise advised”.

See Full Statement Below:



The Inspector-General of Police had on Tuesday rescinded the order restricting the movement of essential workers.

Earlier in the day, Channels Television reported on how essential workers were restricted from moving within Lagos at the beginning of the 8 pm curfew imposed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

According to security officials enforcing the order, health workers and journalists could not be allowed to move around after 8 pm.

However, in a statement, IGP Mohammed Adamu said essential workers can now go about their essential duties.

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Ethiopia Taps Diaspora Doctors To Stay Ahead Of COVID-19

Workers wearing protective suits as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus pull passenger luggage. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP.


Every weekday at noon, radio host Mehret Debebe heads to his studio for a live call-in show devoted to a single topic: what the coronavirus means for Ethiopia.

The questions come from across the country, as farmers in remote regions ask how they should prepare — and in some cases whether the virus is even real.

The answers come from even farther afield.

That’s because Mehret has taken to stacking his guest list with Ethiopian doctors based abroad, often in countries like the United States that have been hit much harder by the pandemic.

“We are still in the pre-crisis phase, so I think learning from them would help a lot,” Mehret, a US-trained psychiatrist, said of his diaspora guests.

“We don’t know what the crisis will be like.”

The World Bank says Ethiopia has just one doctor for every 10,000 people — a ratio that’s half of neighbouring Kenya’s, four times lower than Nigeria’s and nine times lower than South Africa’s.

But the global response to the pandemic has benefited from the work of Ethiopian doctors overseas, including aides to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — who is himself Ethiopian, though not a doctor — and emergency-room physicians in hotspots like New York.

Mehret’s show is part of a broader effort to enlist those doctors to help shape the local response.

READ ALSO: Virus Hope In US As WHO Hails Global Progress

Just 250 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been confirmed so far in Ethiopia, but experts warn the health system could easily become overwhelmed by a major surge.

“That’s the worst-case scenario,” said Dr Wubrest Tesfaye, Mehret’s co-host.

“Having first-hand experience from a person who is at the front, responding to the highest outbreak crisis, would give us the right kind of information” on how to prepare.

– The view from New York –

It was late March when Tsion Firew, an Ethiopian emergency-room doctor based in Manhattan, realised the pandemic could be as bad as anything she’d seen in her years of responding to conflicts and humanitarian disasters.

Critical patients just kept coming, and the lack of information about the virus elevated fear and anxiety.

“I actually felt like I was back in Mosul,” she recalled, referring to her time in the Iraqi city after it was liberated from the Islamic State group in 2017.

She talked about her experiences on a recent episode of Mehret’s show — a segment Mehret said helped underscore the gravity of the virus for listeners.

Tsion’s time in New York, the worst-affected US city, has also informed her work on an Ethiopian government task force to fight the virus — which she does in the mornings before hospital shifts.

When she disagrees with Ethiopian officials, like when she thought they were moving too slowly to procure testing materials, she pushes back “forcefully”, she told AFP.

“After seeing what I saw every day, the amount of death I saw every day, my tone changed,” she said. “I became more pushy, even with the health minister.”

– ‘Time is of the essence’ –

Another recent guest on Mehret’s show was Dawd Siraj, an Ethiopian expert on infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin.

He used his two appearances to break down the science behind the virus, shifting the conversation towards facts and away from what he described as “supranatural” narratives.

“The foundation of science and the methods of reaching conclusions are solid. I want to explain this to the public in an easy, understandable way,” he told AFP.

Mehret said it’s a welcome message in Ethiopia, a deeply religious country where many assume God will protect them from the disease, in part because there haven’t been many local cases so far.

“When it comes to COVID,” he said, “people really think God will take care of it because they don’t see it.”

Like Tsion, Dawd is a member of the health ministry’s coronavirus task force.

He also serves on a diaspora advisory council established by Fitsum Arega, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s former chief of staff and Ethiopia’s current ambassador in Washington.

The council’s “action plan” explains how it will use “experiences learned from around the world” to help with everything from sourcing personal protective equipment to preparing for possible lockdowns should the situation in Ethiopia deteriorate.

“The key is to get ahead of the virus. Time is of the essence!!” the document reads.

– Staying vigilant –

Last week, Mehret aired an interview with Wondwossen G Tekle, an Ethiopian endovascular neurologist at the University of Texas who recently came down with, and recovered from, COVID-19.

Along with his symptoms — the aches, the chills, the loss of taste and smell — Wondwossen described the importance of prevention in keeping Ethiopia’s caseload under control.

Though the total remains low, there are now dozens of cases of community spread, and officials warn that complacency could undermine containment.

Mehret said he hoped listeners gleaned from Wondwossen’s story that “this thing can catch anyone, and you can recover”.

But he also wants them to understand the importance of continued vigilance.

“I think COVID is giving us time because maybe COVID knows we don’t have enough preparation,” Mehret said.

“But if we have all this time and we have done nothing and if the epidemic happens, I think shame on us.”


COVID-19: Doctors Down Tools In Asaba To Protest Police Molestation


Resident doctors in Asaba, the Delta State capital have down their tools in protest even as the country and state is battling to contain COVID-19 pandemic.

The doctors are protesting what they described as incessant molestation and harassment by the Nigeria Police officers.

President of the association of resident doctors, Federal Medical Centre, (FMC), Asaba Chapter, Dr Nwabunor Osifo told journalists on Friday that the action is necessary following intimidation by the police against their members, especially in this period of lockdown.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: ‘I Am Humbled And More Informed,’ Bauchi Governor Says As He Fully Recovers

“Despite members showing the police officers valid Identification Cards, they still harass our members. An ugly incident happened today when one of our members had an emergency and was stopped by members of the police force.

“Things fell apart and sadly enough, our were members were teargased. Yes, doctors were teargased.

“In protest to this, we are embarking on indefinite and total shutdown. As doctors we are not callous, we feel for everyone,” Osifo said.

In his reaction, the State Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, condemned the action of the police officers which he described as against the direction of the Inspector General of Police.

He added that the two officers have been arrested.

“The officer behaved in an unprofessional manner and in tune with IGP’s directive. We have consulted with medical union executives,” Inuwa added.

The Police Commissioner sued for peace and urged the doctors to rescind their decisions as the matter is currently being resolved.

100 Doctors Have Died Of COVID-19 In Italy – Medics

A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work in the Intensive care unit for patients infected by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 at the Policlinico di Tor Vergata hospital, in Rome on April 8, 2020. Andreas SOLARO / AFP.


One hundred Italian doctors have died of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic reached the Mediterranean country in February, Italy’s FNOMCeO health association said on Thursday.

“The number of doctors who have died because of COVID-19 is 100 — perhaps even 101 at the moment, unfortunately,” FNOMCeO spokesman told AFP.

The toll includes retired doctors the government began calling in a month ago to help fight a coronavirus that has officially claimed a world-topping 17,669 lives in Italy.

Italian media reports estimate that 30 nurses and nursing assistants have also died of COVID-19.

“We can longer allow our doctors, our health workers, to be sent to fight without any protection against the virus,” FNOMCeO president Filippo Anelli said on the association’s website.

“It is an unfair fight.”

Rome’s ISS public health institute estimates that 10 percent of those infected with the novel coronavirus in Italy work in health care.


Zimbabwe Doctors Join Nurses On Strike Over Lack Of Coronavirus Protection

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president Tawanda Zvakada (R) and association treasurer Tapiwa Mungofa (L) addressing the media during a press conference at the Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on March 26, 2020, where they vowed to boycott work unless the government provides protective gear to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP.


Doctors in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals have gone on strike over lack of protective gear against the novel coronavirus, joining thousands of nurses who walked out of the wards this week, their association said Thursday.

“We have made a call for safety, to say whilst we are sorting out some things, for now let’s… withdraw our services temporarily,” Tapiwa Mungofa, treasurer of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), told reporters in Harare.

He said most of the doctors across the country’s government hospitals were not at work.

Some 15,000 hospital nurses downed tools on Wednesday over a lack of protective gear and water shortages.

The health workers walkout, “locked up” Harare Central Hospital, one of the country’s main referral hospitals for the poor and the working class.

“The nurses decided to go and stay safe at home,” Mungofa said.

The southern African country’s public health system has been in a state of near-collapse for years, but the lack of drugs and equipment has pushed the system to the brink during the coronavirus spread.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Transmission During Pregnancy Rare But Possible, Study Reveals

The government-owned daily, The Herald, on Thursday reported Zimbabwe had taken delivery of its share of personal protective equipment donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Mungofa said doctors will resume duty “as soon as our safety as health care workers is guaranteed, we are ready to serve the Zimbabwean population, we are ready to fight this coronavirus”.

Zimbabwe has recorded three infections and one death, since reporting its first case last Friday.

A 30-year-old broadcaster died on Monday, less than two days after he tested positive for COVID-19.

His family said the isolation facility where he died had neither the drugs nor a ventilator needed to treat his condition.


PHOTOS: Doctors Protest, Condemn Assault On Female Colleague In Abuja

Members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) protest in Abuja on January 16, 2020. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.



Members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja have protested the harassment of one of their members by a patient’s relative.

The protesters took to the streets of the nation’s capital on Thursday one week after a female doctor was assaulted at the Maitama District Hospital.

The doctor was reportedly stripped naked by one of the relatives of a patient following the death of their mother from a chronic medical condition.

The protesters marched in numbers to the Federal Capital Development Authority to express their grievance over the incident.

Some of them carried different placards with various inscriptions, while others called for justice and more secured working environment for members of the association.

The NMA Chairman (FCT chapter), Ekpe Phillips, condemned the incident during an interview with reporters in the nation’s capital.

He said, “There should be an undertaking by patients that their relatives will not show any act of violence to any doctor or healthcare worker, as doctors are scared to come to work due to the violent act of some patients.”

Phillips, therefore, called on the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, to deploy appropriate security measures to protect the lives of residents, especially health workers.

See photos below:

Members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) protest in Abuja on January 16, 2020. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.


Five Doctors Killed In Libya Air Raid


Five doctors were killed in an airstrike by forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in a field hospital near the capital, the health ministry of the UN-recognised government said.

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive in April to try to wrest Tripoli from forces of the Government of National Accord which is based in the capital.

Pro-GNA forces have weathered the initial onslaught and since then fighting has remained deadlocked on the outskirts of the city, with both sides resorting to air strikes.

“The field hospital located on the airport road (south of Tripoli) was hit by an air raid. Five doctors were killed and seven other people, including rescuers, wounded,” health ministry spokesman Lamine al-Hashemi said.

The strike occurred on Saturday and was carried out by “a Haftar warplane”, he said.

READ ALSO: Armed Men Kill 14 In Burkina Faso Village Raid

“It was a direct hit against the hospital which was packed with medical teams,” Hashemi added.

There was no immediate confirmation or denial of responsibility from Haftar’s forces.

The attack was the third to target a hospital south of the capital.

On July 16 three doctors and a paramedic were wounded in a strike on the Swani hospital near the capital, the second time it was targeted.

The World Health Organization and rights groups have repeatedly called on both sides in the conflict to spare medical personnel, clinics, and hospitals.

The fighting since April has left nearly 1,100 people dead and wounded more than 5,750, according to the WHO. More than 100,000 civilians have fled their homes.


Kidnappers Demand $1.5million For Doctors Taken In Kenya

Gunmen Kidnap Two Oil Workers In Rivers


Gunmen who kidnapped two Cuban doctors in northeastern Kenya and whisked them to Somalia have demanded $1.5 million (1.35 million euros) for their release, police and government sources said on Thursday.

The pair — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were abducted on April 12 by suspected Al-Shabaab jihadis in Mandera, near the border with Somalia.

One of two police officers escorting the doctors to work was shot dead by the attackers, who sped off toward Somalia with their captives, officials said.

READ ALSO: 11 Missing Niger Soldiers Found Dead After Gunmen Killed 17

Kenya and Somalia are working together to find the doctors, who Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel identified as Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodriguez Hernandez.

A top government official in Mandera said the kidnappers have demanded a ransom.

“The amount is $1.5 million. That is what they want,” the official said on condition on anonymity.

A senior police officer told AFP a ransom had been demanded, but would not elaborate. Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said he had no such information.

Several sources said the doctors were believed to be providing medical services in Somalia.

They were part of a group of about 100 Cubans who went to Kenya last year to boost health services there.

Kenyan police sources said the kidnapping bore the hallmarks of Al-Shabaab, a militant outfit that has been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade.

Last November, an armed gang seized Silvia Romano, 23, an Italian charity worker, in the southeastern Kenyan town of Chakama. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Police at the time warned against any speculation that Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, may have been involved in her abduction.


We Need More Doctors, We Don’t Have Enough – Nigerians Reply Chris Ngige



Reaction have trailed comments by The Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige,  suggesting that the mass exodus of doctors from Nigeria is not a thing to lose sleep about. 

Chris Ngige had on Wednesday, said that he is not bothered about the decision of medical doctors who choose to leave Nigeria to practice outside the country.

While featuring as a guest Channels TV Sunrise Daily, Ngige said the practice is not alien to Nigeria, because he was taught by Indians in secondary school.

“I’m Not Worried, We Have Surplus (Doctors), if we have a surplus, we export. I was taught Biology and Chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.

“They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess. We have enough, more than enough, quote me.”

Nigerians in reaction to the minister’s comments have taken to social media to air their views on the subject matter, with many holding views at variance with Ngige’s claim that the nation has a surplus of medical doctors.

Below are what Nigerians are saying with respect to Ngige’s claim.

READ ALSO: FG Vows To Improve Primary Health Care Delivery In Nigeria

VIDEO: Doctors Are Free To Leave Nigeria Because We Have Surplus, I’m Not Worried – Ngige


The Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige has said that he is not bothered about the decision of medical doctors who choose to leave Nigeria to practice outside the country.

Ngige who was a guest on Channels TV Sunrise Daily said the practice is not alien to Nigeria, because he was taught by Indians in secondary school.

“I’m Not Worried, We Have Surplus (Doctors), if we have a surplus, we export. I was taught Biology and Chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.

“They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess. We have enough, more than enough, quote me.”

Ngige, when asked if nothing was wrong, owing to his position as a qualified medical doctor, said there was nothing wrong in their choice to practise overseas, at the detriment of Nigeria’s health sector.

“There is nothing wrong, they go out to sharpen their skills, earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them, not from oil.”

READ ALSO: Dogara Slams Tinubu, Lists 8th National Assembly’s Achievements

The minister said the move does not amount to brain drain when asked.

“Those guys go there, they are better trained because of the facilities they have there. Eventually, I know a couple of them who practise abroad but set up medical centres back home. They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government hospitals cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss.

“Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don’t have neurosurgeons here.”

Pele Under ‘Observation’ In Brazil Hospital

Brazilian football legend Pele speaks during a meeting with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and France national football team forward Kylian Mbappe at the Hotel Lutetia in Paris/ AFP


Pele remains under “observation” in a Brazilian hospital, his doctors said Thursday, describing the three-time World Cup winner as “clinically stable”.

The latest update on the Brazilian football great’s health comes a day after the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo said he would need an operation to remove a “ureteral stone”.

The 78-year-old was admitted to the medical facility on Tuesday after he returned from France where he had spent six days in a Paris hospital for a urinary tract infection that required surgery.

READ ALSO: Atletico To Appeal Costa’s Eight-Match Ban

Pele “remains clinically stable and in good health”, the Sao Paulo hospital said.

“He has been medically evaluated and is still under observation.”

Pele, who is widely considered to be the greatest footballer in history, was discharged late Monday from the private American hospital in the Paris suburbs where he had been taken after falling ill following an appearance at a promotional event with France striker Kylian Mbappe.

Pele, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and perhaps most memorably in Mexico in 1970 when his swashbuckling team re-defined modern football, has had several health scares in recent years.