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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.
India's biggest problem is shortage of safety gear for health workers. “If we cant protect our doctors, Shame on us” @RojerNath, Association of Medical devices, tells #Mojo. He calls for Army & garment Cos to help. Says “Police beating our workers &truckers”# Preview of my intvw pic.twitter.com/PQPeoDPnm6
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) April 1, 2020
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.
COVID-19 Pandemic :
Indian health professionals demand secure residence and transport facilities during the lockdown.@PMOIndia @MoHFW_INDIA @drharshvardhan @AmitShahOffice @nitin_gadkari @narendramodi @HindustanTimes @the_hindu @timesofindia @NavbharatTimes @aajtak pic.twitter.com/UDBVRmKcI8
— RDAAIIMS (@AIIMSRDA) March 24, 2020
I'm myself a govt. doctor being threatened by my Society. Please help @narendramodi sir. @PMOIndia @ZeeNews https://t.co/NHQoQDMOaY
— Sanjibani Panigrahi (@DrSanjibani) March 23, 2020
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.
#WATCH Madhya Pradesh: Locals of Tatpatti Bakhal in Indore pelt stones at health workers who were there to screen people, in wake of #Coronavirus outbreak. A case has been registered. (Note-Abusive language) (1.04.2020) pic.twitter.com/vkfOwYrfxK
— ANI (@ANI) April 1, 2020
The video went viral and netizens quickly took to Twitter and Instagram to condemn the act.
Sad to see that Millions are quarantined inside their homes trying 2break the corona chain while many are going hungry due 2the lockdown.Then there are those breaking quarantine & pelting stones on Cops & doctors who are working without proper PPE. Whats happening to India???#Sad
— Preity G Zinta (@realpreityzinta) April 2, 2020
Epitome of madness. Health workers come under violent attack in Indore. They were screening residents for signs of #Coronavirus Two women doctors injured. If people keep attacking Doctors, soon medics will be unwilling to do their job and then we will suffer without treatment. pic.twitter.com/fn06vS7ddA
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) April 2, 2020
Claps to Slaps .. #moronavirus Apni jaan bachaye ki patients ki..
urgent need for doctor's safety. Aftr discrimination lik don't enter shops, don't use lift & now stone pelting … Mindset needs to be changed.. @BDUTT @drkamnakakkar @DrRebellious https://t.co/KYJL1antqV
— Gopal Chawla (@drgchawla) April 1, 2020
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.
Assault of Doctors in Telangana treating COVID patients.
Appeal to @MoHFW_INDIA @AmitShahOffice @PMOIndia to provide safety to frontline warrier in this COVID-19 pandemic.
Immediate need of Central law on violence against doctor.#stopviolencetodoctors@TOIIndiaNews @the_hindu. pic.twitter.com/dRH6BujRWB
— RDAAIIMS (@AIIMSRDA) April 2, 2020
First you dont provide PPE , doctors and nurses beg you for weeks for them yet you remain ignorant ,and when there is no option left with doctors and nurses but to preserve themselves then you do this@AvtarSi62019107 @suraiya95 @ManojTiwariMP @VijayGoelBJP @docvjg @MoHFW_INDIA pic.twitter.com/qy1xwcG4RE
— Dr Sanjeev Choudhary (@drsanjeevindian) April 1, 2020
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.