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Healthcare workers attacked as fears about coronavirus take hold of India

Image by Cico Zeljko from Pixabay. Used under a Pixabay license.

Image by Cico Zeljko from Pixabay. Used under a Pixabay license.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

India's nationwide lockdown has been in full swing since March 24 in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus in the world's second-most populous country. Fears about mass community spread have led to the stigmatisation of the very people dedicated to helping stop the virus: medical professionals.

Working in understaffed facilities with less equipment has already been a concern for doctors; however, public attacks are now being added to their concerns. Accounts of health officials being pelted with stones and reports of medical professionals being evicted have started making headlines.

This discrimination has been triggered by fears that healthcare workers treating COVID-19 positive patients will spread the virus in their communities and housing complexes. Landlords and housing societies have gone so far as to evict healthcare workers and some have been forced to sleep in hospitals. The Resident Doctors’ Association of AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) located in Delhi had to write a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking help against the discrimination and forced eviction faced by doctors across the country.

In addition to the threats to their homes, India has seen rise in verbal and physical attacks against healthcare workers. Recently, a team of health professionals was attacked while conducting sample collection from an area called Taat Patti Bakhal in the city of Indore. During the incident, two doctors were pelted with stones after asking a woman, who had contact with a COVID-19 positive patient, to accompany them to the hospital for testing.

The video went viral and netizens quickly took to Twitter and Instagram to condemn the act.

According to reports, attacks on doctors have seen a rise in the past weeks, as relatives of a COVID-19 patient died due to comorbidity in Hyderabad allegedly attacked the doctors.

As fear of the virus continues to create panic, other workers are also facing discrimination. Airline staffers, some of whom were working flights that rescued thousands of citizens from Wuhan, Italy, and Iran, are also reportedly being discriminated against.

With people mistreating those who are fighting the battle against COVID-19, it raises questions about whether the government is capable of providing protection for the people who are risking their lives to keep India healthy.

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