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More than 600 incidents of violence, harassment or stigmatization against healthcare workers, patients and medical infrastructure in relation to Covid-19 cases have been recorded.
Of the 611 incidents, across more than 40 countries, more than 20% involved physical assaults, 15% were incidents of fear-based discrimination, and 15% were verbal assaults or threats, according to to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This figure reflects only the known incidents, so the actual figure is likely much higher.
The release of this new data – gathered during the first six months of the pandemic – includes doctors at a hospital in Pakistan who were verbally and physically attacked after a patient died of Covid-19.
In Afghanistan, the main COVID-19 isolation centre closed for a half-day due to a physical altercation between relatives of a patient who died and health personnel.
In Bangladesh, bricks were thrown at the house of a doctor after he tested positive for Covid-19 in a bid to force him and his family from the area.
“This crisis has put healthcare workers in harm’s way at a time when they are needed the most. Many have been insulted, harassed and subjected to physical violence. This atmosphere of fear, which is often compounded by a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, is adding significant stress to their physical and mental health and that of their families,” said Maciej Polkowski, the head of ICRC’s Health Care in Danger initiative.
“These attacks have a devastating impact on access to and provision of health care when many health systems are overwhelmed.”
In the UK, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a rise in a new cohort of rough sleepers, charities warn as data shows reports of homelessness witnessed by members of the public surged during lockdown months.
Alerts by members of the public about rough sleepers increased by 36% year on year between April and June 2020, reaching 16,976. Notifications were also higher than the previous quarter which is unusual as they tend to rise in winter months, charities said.