India's fight against coronavirus: Harassments of flight crews, healthcare staff spark concerns

Doctors, healthcare providers, airline staff facing ostracisation due to rumours of spreading virus; govt assures security

Published: 25th March 2020 12:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2020 01:41 PM   |  A+A-

A doctors practises social distancing at a mohalla clinic in Delhi amid reports of doctors being ostracised due to corona. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav/EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  Stories of doctors, flight crews and healthcare staff being harassed because of rumours about them being infected with coronavirus emerged from many parts of the country on Tuesday even as frontline workers continued to put their lives at stake to provide extensive support in countering the pandemic.

Ironically, the shocking developments come three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Indians to commemorate the contribution of workers of essential services like health care professionals etc in battling the outbreak. 

In Delhi, AIIMS doctors raised the issue of ostracisation against healthcare professionals with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, alleging that some medical staff were even forced to vacate the rented house by their landlords. Several healthcare staff took to social media platforms to express despair over not having basic protective gear such as masks and gloves.

Reacting to the complaints of harassment, Shah ordered Delhi Police to ensure security to the healthcare staff. Sources said he spoke to Delhi Police chief S N Srivastava as well as president of AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association(RDA) Adarsh Pratap Singh, general secretary RDA Srinivas Rajkumar T said, “The home minister  personally called RDA AIIMS and assured that any such issue of ostracisation will be taken seriously and action will be taken immediately.”

Shah said it was the nation’s duty to keep the morale high of the healthcare staff. “I’m DEEPLY ANGUISHED to see reports pouring in from Delhi, Noida, Warangal, Chennai etc that DOCTORS and PARAMEDICS are being ostracised in residential complexes & societies. Landlords are threatening to evict them fearing #COVID2019 infection. Pls don’t panic! All precautions are being taken by doctors & staff on #COVID2019 duty to ensure they’re not carriers of infection in anyway. Any harsh steps will demoralise them, derail the system. On Sunday, nation applauded their selfless services. It’s our bounden duty 2 keep their morale high,” he tweeted. 

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also took note of the incidents and urged people to change their mindset. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, too, said he was deeply distressed by reports that airlines crew who are on the frontline of battle against corona, including those working to evacuate Indians stranded abroad, were being harassed by neighbours/RWAs. 

Puri made the statement soon after a cabin crew at Indigo Airlines shared a heart-wrenching account on how the people in her locality were spreading rumours that she was infected with coronavirus and harassing her mother accusing her of spreading the virus.

Narrating her ordeal in a video on Facebook, she said, “I want this video to go viral because being in the service industry we are facing a lot...My job requires that I have to be on company is taking complete precautions...In spite of that, people are spreading rumours in my locality that I’m suffering from corona.”

In the letter to the home minister, the AIIMS RDA asked the government to issue an order prohibiting landlords and home-owners from evicting medical professionals.


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