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India’s coronavirus heroes come under attack

Saturday 28 March 2020, by siawi3


India’s coronavirus heroes come under attack



They have been hailed as India’s coronavirus “heroes”, but doctors, nurses, delivery drivers and other frontline workers have been attacked and in some cases evicted from their homes by panicked residents.

Some e-commerce giants have even halted deliveries partly due to the harassment of staff, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi said abuse of hospital workers had become a “huge issue”.

Reports of attacks and abuse have come from across India, increasing with the imposition this week of a 21-day nationwide lockdown. In at least one case, police were accused of beating a delivery driver carrying medicines.

Sanjibani Panigrahi, a doctor in the western city of Surat, described how she was accosted as she returned home from a long day at a hospital that is treating Covid-19 patients.

She said neighbours blocked her at the entrance to her apartment building and threatened “consequences” if she continued to work.

“These are the same people who have happily interacted with me (in the past). Whenever they’ve faced a problem, I’ve helped them out,” the 36-year-old told AFP.

“There is a sense of fear among people. I do understand. But it’s like I suddenly became an untouchable.”

This week, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences appealed to the government for help after health workers were forced out of their homes by panicked landlords and housing societies.

“Many doctors are stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country,” the letter said.

Modi called on Indians to stop treating medical workers as pariahs, describing those fighting the virus were “god-like”.

“Today they are the people who are saving us from dying, putting their lives in danger.”
Fake news and paranoia

Health workers are not the only ones facing the brunt of the frightened population in an environment where misinformation and rumours are thriving.

Airline and airport staff, who are still being called on for evacuations of Indians stuck overseas and management of key cargo deliveries, have also been threatened.

Indigo and Air India have condemned threats made against their staff.

An Air India flight attendant told AFP her neighbours threatened to evict her from her apartment while she was heading to the United States, saying she would “infect everyone”.

“I couldn’t sleep that night,” she said, afraid to reveal her name over fear of further stigmatisation.

“I was scared that even if I did go home, would someone break open the door or call people to kick me out?”

Her husband had to ask the police for help.

Others have not been as lucky, the flight attendant said, with one colleague — who declined to speak to AFP — forced out of her home and now living with her parents.

“With all the fake news and WhatsApp forwards, they don’t know what is going on, so there’s this paranoia that makes them behave like this,” she said.

T. Praveen Keerthi, general secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (IPCA), told AFP they had received more than 50 complaints from airline crew.

“Airline staffers are being stopped from entering their own residential premises by security guards,” he said.

“We also have families and children that we leave at home to help fellow citizens... The least we expect is for our colleagues to not be harassed and ostracised.”

Airport workers involved in moving essential supplies have also faced attacks as have delivery workers transporting medicines and groceries.

E-commerce giant Flipkart temporarily suspended services this week.

The Walmart-owned group said it only resumed home deliveries after police guaranteed “the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives”.



Health Labour
Covid-19 stigma: Medical professionals ostracized and evicted from rented homes

Medical health professional all over the country are facing discrimination and exclusion for the fear of spreading Covid-19 among the community

Priyanka Kavish

27 Mar 2020

As if the Coronavirus pandemic isn’t enough of a nightmare for medical health professionals in the country, they are now also becoming the victims of rampant ill-treatment by the public who were just, a week ago, clapping and clanking vessels to laud their efforts of curbing the nationwide spread of the virus.

Facing discrimination and exclusion from the community, many landlords across the country are now evicting healthcare workers from their rental and paying guest accommodations for the fear of being infected and spreading the disease to others.

Seven nurses working at the Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru have been evicted from their Paying Guest accommodation. Speaking to the Deccan Herald a 35-year-old nurse working in the Trauma and Emergency care of the hospital said that she along with three other colleagues were forced out of their PG accommodation in Chamarajpet. She said, “The owner of the PG came to our door one day and said all the inmates in the PG were scared and we have to leave. We tried to explain that such infections will not happen as we take all precautionary steps to check the spread of the disease. They were in no mood to listen and told us to move out immediately.”

What’s unfortunate is that it isn’t just the people out there who are acting with such insensitivity. After the Staff Nurses Association tried to talk to the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) and intervene, asking the institute to provide accommodation to the seven nurses, they are still waiting to hear from the administration. Not just this, the BMCRI has also barred the nurses from entering the dining hall, kitchen or common area saying a separate accommodation was planned for nurses on Covid-19 duty.

At the MGM Hospital in Hyderabad’s Warangal too, doctors were forced out on the streets by their landlords citing that the doctors were ‘dirty’ and that other tenants feared they would spread the Coronavirus in the locality. A student of the MGM Hospital told The Indian Express, “They are recognising us with our lab coats and stethoscopes. Many doctors have been asked to vacate their rented homes by their owners as they believe that doctors staying at their houses may make them more susceptible to COVID-19. One owner even said we were dirty. They asked us to vacate without any notice. Most of the doctors are now on streets and have nowhere to go.”

In Telangana, duty doctors and nurses faced harassment from the police and their vehicles were vandalized too. The News Minute reported Dr. Sidhardha K, a doctor from Osmania Hospital, recalling his ordeal. He said, “I left the hospital at 9 pm. On my way home, I was stopped by police who said I wasn’t allowed to be outside. I showed them my identity card in a digital form, but the police officer refused to listen and told me again I wasn’t allowed to be outside. They hit me and broke the glass and visor of my bike when I tried reasoning with them.”

Video here

A paramedic too was beaten up by the police as he was on his way to provide services to those who needed it the most.

Mansi Gandhi @gandhi_mansi

@TelanganaDGP One of our medical paramedics (Syed Faiyaz Hussain) was beaten up at the Miyapur junction by a policeman. As a healthcare worker, he was on his way to provide services to those in need. What is going on? Why isn’t the police aware of who is allowed and who is not?
5:00 AM - Mar 24, 2020

In Pune’s Wagholi, 22 members of staff of a multi-specialty hospital – including doctors, nurses, medical staff, residential medical officer and male nurses, were forced to vacate their accommodations in a nearby society, Krushna Kunj, reason being, they had come in contact with a Covid-19 positive patient.

Speaking to Mirror, one of the doctor’s there said, “An accident victim was admitted to our hospital for three days (March 19-21), and was shifted to a private institute in Pune on March 22. The 41-year-old Sanaswadi resident tested positive for Covid-19 on March 24 and the news went viral in the area. Shortly thereafter, the healthcare professionals were asked by the society residents to vacate the premises over fears of infection. For the past two days, we are living at the hospital itself.”

The hospital’s medical store manager describes the plight that the staff had to suffer. Saying that the society members gathered together, setting the deadline at 5 PM to vacate the flats. “All of us were walking like criminals and the residents looked down upon us through their balconies. Such humiliating behaviour was unexpected from our neighbours who we stayed with for five years. We all walked with our heads down and came to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.”

The medical director too, like other doctors who have been living in their own accommodations, have been ostracized by other residents asking if the doctors had checked themselves for the virus time and again.

Prior to these incidents, the Resident Doctors’ Association from AIIMS had written to the Home Minister, Amit Shah, asking him to issue an order prohibiting landlords from evicting doctors and other healthcare professionals from their rented homes at such a time.

Then, the Delhi government had issued an order stating that penal action would be taken against landlords and house owners at such a time, for obstructing public servants in discharging their duties.

The Government of Karnataka too has taken a leaf from the Delhi government’s book, issuing an order stating that strict penal action would be taken against landlords and house owners for evicting healthcare personnel and obstructing them from fulfilling their duties.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan too had issued a statement request people to not discriminate against the frontline health workers and ostracize them for doing their duty.

It is unfortunate to see that these healthcare professionals who are hailed as ‘coronavirus heroes’ have been so ostracized by the community. All of these doctors, nurses and other medical staff put their lives at risk, take the due precautions and yet face such discrimination.

Amid the lockdown, these healthcare professionals are already grappling with problems of no transport to medical centres and most importantly, no provisions of ample protective gear.

Yet, not respecting their Hippocratic Oath and boosting their morale at a trying time like this, we hypocritically clap and bajao thalis to thank them as we evict them out of their homes and leave them to their own devices on the streets.

This student of MGM Hospital is looking for an answer when he asks, “Where is the gratitude they showed us Sunday? Why do we have to risk our lives if this is how they treat us?”


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