As the global coronavirus pandemic worsens by the day, fear is swelling in India – and frontline medical workers are bearing the brunt of public panic.
India has reported 562 cases of the novel coronavirus so far, a relatively low number given the country’s size and density. But there are signs of rising anxiety amid a dramatic nationwide lockdown, with scenes of panic buying and targeted harassment of doctors and other frontline workers.
Medical staff in the national capital New Delhi say they have been ostracized and discriminated against by their communities due to fears that they may be infected after working with coronavirus patients. Some doctors have even reported being evicted, or facing threats that their electricity will be cut off.
“Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers involved in Covid care are being asked to vacate their rented homes and some have been even forcefully evicted from their temporary residence by landlords and house-owners due to the fear that those healthcare professionals make them susceptible to coronavirus infection,” said a letter from the Resident Doctors’ Association of New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, sent on Tuesday to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“Many doctors are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country,” said the letter, which urged Shah to take action to protect the embattled medical workers.
The reports of forced evictions were met with anger from some citizens online, as well as from local and health officials.
Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, tweeted on Tuesday that he was “deeply anguished” to hear of doctors being ostracized.