India’s coronavirus heroes come under attack
Surat: 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.
"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. - AFP