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Coronavirus

Over 400 acts of violence against COVID-19 health workers in 2020: Report

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Insults, beatings, arrests – health workers battling the coronavirus were subjected to more than 400 acts of violence related to Covid-19 worldwide in 2020, according to a report published Tuesday by a health NGO.

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The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition unveiled an interactive map that shows 1,172 violent acts and attacks occurred against health workers or facilities last year, “a minimum estimate,” according to the NGO.

More than a third (412) of the acts are directly related to Covid-19, it said, citing several examples including in Mexico, where a nurse was attacked and injured by a group accusing her of spreading the virus.

A health worker talks with a man taking a swab test in Goldsworth Park, as the South African variant of the novel coronavirus is reported in parts of Surrey, in Woking, Britain, on February 1, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
A health worker talks with a man taking a swab test in Goldsworth Park, as the South African variant of the novel coronavirus is reported in parts of Surrey, in Woking, Britain, on February 1, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

In Dakar, three social workers had stones hurled at them by residents who refused to have a coronavirus victim buried near their homes.

In Birmingham, England, a health worker was spat at and insulted by a neighbor.

The vast majority, 80 percent, of the perpetrators of the violence were civilians, but threats also came from public authorities.

In Egypt, health workers who criticized the handling of the pandemic were arrested by security forces and accused of spreading false information and of belonging to a terrorist group.

Insecurity Insight, which developed the interactive map, also recorded 802 attacks in countries at war or on victims of civil conflicts, such as the bombing of hospitals in Yemen and the kidnapping of doctors in Nigeria.

“The map shows that violence and intimidation against health care was a truly global crisis in 2020, affecting 79 countries,” said Insecurity Insight director Christina Wille in a statement.

Leonard Rubenstein, the president and founder of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, called on international governments to protect health workers, including by fighting disinformation.

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