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Human rights activists note lack of PPE, their poor quality during pandemic

One of the most important safeguards for health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is the availability of adequate PPE, however in the early stages of the epidemic in Kyrgyzstan doctors had been obliged to work without adequate supplies of PPE. The International Human Rights Organization Amnesty International stated in its report «Beyond the Call of Duty: The Rights of Health Workers in Kyrgyzstan.»

According to Article 214 of the Labour Code of Kyrgyzstan employers must provide workers with PPE, if they are working in dangerous or harmful conditions, furthermore they must be offered additional payment for dangerous work.

However, the Labour Code does not offer adequate protection to health workers since they are not included in the list of professions considered to be dangerous or harmful and thus eligible for protection and additional payments.

«The supply of PPE has improved since the start of the epidemic due to the efforts of volunteer groups who have been fundraising to buy and supply PPE to hospitals. The doctors were provided with PPE, but they complained about the quality. Furthermore, medical workers were concerned that there had not been adequate training in the use of PPE,» authors of the report say.

A further problem is that the Ministry of Health has made a very clear distinction between health workers working in the so called «red zones» where they come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients, and those who are not and therefore are not considered to be at risk and provided with PPE.

Kyrgyzstan must live up to its human rights obligations under Article 7(b) of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all workers in accordance with the level and nature of risk they face. In this context this means that the Ministry of Health must ensure that all doctors are provided with PPE that are fully adequate for the relevant hazards, and that they are properly trained in how to use it to avoid infection. Furthermore, PPE should be available to all those working in health care and not just those working in the so-called «red zones».