A mob of at least 100 locals threw stones at doctors sent to screen people for the Chinese coronavirus in central India on Wednesday.
As seen in a video of the attack, the mob chased the healthcare workers and civic officials down an alley, throwing stones and other objects at them, while also spitting on the workers and shouting abuse.
“We were given a list of contacts of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] patients and were screening them when suddenly some of them started pelting us with stones. We ran to save our lives,” said one doctor.
On Thursday, seven men were arrested for the attack. The local superintendent of police DK Tiwari said that the accused were identified based on area CCTV footage. On Thursday, police were still working to identify more people suspected of participating in the assault.
Healthcare workers in India have increasingly faced attacks, abuse, and discrimination as they work to treat Chinese coronavirus patients across the country. Doctors in Hyderabad – the capital of southern India’s Telangana state – said on Thursday that they were attacked by family members of a man they treated for Chinese coronavirus after he died from the illness. Some healthcare workers have reportedly been evicted from their homes.
One doctor in the western city of Surat said she had been accosted by neighbors when returning home from work and blocked from accessing her apartment building. Her neighbors threatened “consequences” if she continued to treat patients.
“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 doctor said.
“There is a sense of fear among people. I do understand. But it’s like I suddenly became an untouchable,” she added.
Indian healthcare workers across the country have pleaded with authorities for better protection from discrimination and abuse. Modi and other officials have condemned the abuse of healthcare workers and have called for the public to treat doctors with respect.
“In this hour of crisis, those in white coats are the incarnation of God. Today they are saving lives, putting their own lives in danger,” the Prime Minister said this week.
Discrimination against healthcare workers treating Chinese coronavirus patients has become an international phenomenon, with reports surfacing of harassment and abuse in other regions, such as the Philippines and the United Kingdom, as well.
On March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed India under a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. With a population of 1.3 billion people, India’s quarantine is reportedly the world’s largest.
At press time on Thursday, India had 2,341 infections and 68 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.