WHO chief brands virus protection gear graft ‘murder’

Members of the Hennops Revival, a non profit organisation, can be seen clearing some of the PPE gloves that have been dumped in the river over the weekend, 3 August 2020, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Health workers not equipped with personal protective equipment puts their lives and the lives of the people they serve at risk, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Corrupt practices around medical safety gear for COVID-19 health workers is tantamount to “murder”, the World Health Organisation chief said Friday.

In strong remarks, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that corruption which deprives health workers of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) threatened not only their lives but also the lives of their patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.

The WHO director-general was asked about graft in South Africa, which is reeling from coronavirus-linked corruption scandals that have battered President Cyril Ramaphosa’s credibility and the country’s image abroad.

“Any type of corruption is unacceptable,” Tedros told a virtual news conference.

“However, corruption related to PPE… for me it’s actually murder. Because if health workers work without PPE, we’re risking their lives. And that also risks the lives of the people they serve.

“So it’s criminal and it’s murder and it has to stop.”

The outcry in South Africa began with reports that local government officials were hoarding and selling food donations meant for families without income during lockdown.

Then anger mounted further when some hospitals found that state purchases of masks, gowns and other PPE were not reaching staff.

South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit is investigating more than 160 companies to check the legitimacy of coronavirus-related equipment and services provided.

It will publish all contracts for protective gear for health workers.

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