India

Coronavirus: India doctors 'spat at and attacked'

File photo showing two Indian doctors checking a thermometer Image copyright Majority World
Image caption Indian doctors have been working extra hours to halt the spread of the coronavirus

Several healthcare workers in India have been attacked as they battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Reports say doctors have been spat at and chased away from homes, and that in one case patients directed abusive and vulgar language towards female nurses.

Some physicians and their families have also been ostracised by their neighbours because of their exposure to patients infected with Covid-19.

India has reported more than 2,300 cases and at least 50 people have died.

One video, which has gone viral, showed a mob throwing stones at two female doctors wearing personal protective equipment in the central city of Indore.

The doctors had gone to a densely-populated area to check on a woman suspected of having Covid-19 when they came under attack.

Despite being injured, one of the doctors seen in the video, Zakiya Sayed, said the incident "won't deter me from doing my duty".

"We were on our usual round to screen suspected cases," she told the BBC. "We never thought that we would be attacked."

"I had never seen scenes like that. It was frightening. We somehow fled from the mob. I am injured but not scared at all."

Dr Sayed added: "We had no reason to suspect that people would be agitated against medical teams."

"We are working to keep people safe. We had information about a person coming in contact with a Covid-19 patient. We were talking to the person when residents got agitated and attacked us."

Image copyright Hindustan Times
Image caption Doctors have been abused and attacked in different parts of India

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Dr Anand Rai, who is also a part of the Covid-19 taskforce in Indore, told the BBC: "Nothing can justify the attack against medical team. But it happened in a Muslim-dominated area where there is general distrust against the government."

He said the area had recently witnessed protests against a controversial new citizenship law.

"So that anger spilled over and took the form of this attack. But whatever maybe the reason, nothing can justify violence, especially against doctors during a national health emergency," he added.

Meanwhile, a hospital in the northern city of Ghaziabad also witnessed unruly scenes on Thursday.

The hospital put at least 21 people in quarantine after they attended a religious event that has been linked to hundreds of positive cases across the country.

Thousands who attended the gathering in Delhi, organised by Islamic preaching group Tablighi Jamaat, have been put in quarantine, and authorities are still tracing others. It is believed that the infections were caused by preachers who attended the event from Indonesia.

At the Ghaziabad hospital, some of the quarantined attendees allegedly used abusive and vulgar language against members of staff.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Almost 400 cases of Covid-19 have been traced to a Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi

"Some were walking naked in the hospital ward and harassing women doctors and nurses," a doctor who works at the hospital told the BBC. "They kept asking for cigarettes and tobacco."

A senior police officer in the city told the BBC that cases had been registered against some people after doctors filed a complaint.

"Registering cases was the last resort. Police are still trying to make them understand the severity of the situation," he said.

Image copyright SOPA Images
Image caption Doctors and nurses have asked people to follow their advice and not panic

Similar incidents have been reported in neighbouring Delhi.

Some attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat event who are being held in a quarantine facility run by the railways are said to have spat at doctors and misbehaved.

Deepak Kumar, spokesman for Northern Railways, said the situation there was now under control.

"The attendees have been counselled and they are now co-operating with the staff," he said.

Delhi's state government has reportedly written to the police, requesting more security for medical staff.

Reports of attacks on doctors and nurses have also come from the southern city of Hyderabad and the western city of Surat.

A doctor who was treating coronavirus patients is Hyderabad's Gandhi Hospital was attacked on Wednesday.

Police have promised the doctor that "strict action will be taken against the culprits".

Image copyright NARINDER NANU
Image caption Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that doctors are "front-line soldiers"

But it is not just a work where medical workers are facing discrimination. It has followed them home.

One doctor, who did not wish to be identified, said she felt "extremely disheartened when I learnt that even my neighbours think that me and my family shouldn't be allowed to live in the building".

"We want our families to be safe. But we are being discriminated for doing our job."

"A number of doctors have tested positive across India and that shows how tough our job is at the moment. And that is why we need everybody's support to win this war against coronavirus."

She added: "We are following all safety protocols. We are not meeting even our families and that is stressful."

"But seeing this open discrimination just breaks my heart. But we will go on because there is really no other option."

More on this story