Nigerian doctors in state-run hospitals have gone on strike over complaints of welfare and inadequate protective equipment, but have said medics treating coronavirus patients will keep working.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million inhabitants, has recorded 16,085 cases and 420 deaths since the first documented case of the virus in February. More than 800 health workers have been infected by the virus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“A decision to commence on a total indefinite strike with exemption only for COVID-19 treatment centres has been taken,” the National Association of Resident Doctors, which represents some 40 percent of Nigeria’s doctors, said in a tweet.
“This is with effect from 12:00 am Monday 15/06/2020.”
Association president Aliyu Sokomba told AFP news agency that doctors treating coronavirus patients were not going on strike because medics did not want to “deprive COVID-19 patients care”.
He warned that they would be forced to join the action if the government refuses to meet its demands within two weeks.
The organisation had threatened the strike over a raft of issues, including the “grossly inadequate” provision of protective equipment and calls for hazard pay for those working on virus-affected patients.
Other demands focused on improving general welfare and protested against sackings or pay cuts for doctors in two regions.
Strikes by medics are common in Nigeria, where the health sector has been underfunded for years.
The authorities fear that any reduction in capacity could severely hamper its ability to tackle the pandemic as the number of cases continues to rise.
The main national doctors union briefly staged a warning strike in commercial hub Lagos over police harassment of its members.