Covid-19 disrupts health services in over 90% of countries: WHO

A survey conducted in late 2021 showed that Covid-19 disrupted vaccinations and treatments of other ailments. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - Disruptions in basic health services, such as vaccination programmes and treatment of diseases like acquired immune deficiency syndrome, were reported in 92 per cent of 129 countries, a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic showed on Monday (Feb 7).

The survey, conducted in November to December 2021, showed that services were "severely impacted" with "little or no improvement" from the previous survey in early 2021, the WHO said in a statement sent to journalists.

"The results of this survey highlight the importance of urgent action to address major health system challenges, recover services and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic," the WHO said.

Emergency care, which includes ambulance and emergency room services, actually worsened, with 36 per cent of countries reporting disruptions versus 29 per cent in early 2021 and 21 per cent in the first survey in 2020.

Elective operations such as hip and knee replacements were disrupted in 59 per cent of the countries and gaps in rehabilitative and palliative care were reported in about half of them.

The survey's timing coincided with surging Covid-19 cases in many countries in late 2021 due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, piling additional strain on hospitals.

The WHO statement attributed the scale of disruptions to "pre-existing health systems issues" as well as decreased demand for care, without elaborating.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.