Coronavirus: over 600 cases of violence against caregivers and patients

Coronavirus: over 600 cases of violence against caregivers and patients
Credit: Belga

More than 600 violent incidents against caregivers, patients and medical facilities have been recorded in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says on Tuesday.

According to the ICRC, these figures are all the more worrying as they reflect only known cases and the actual number of cases is likely to be much higher.

"The crisis has endangered health-care workers at a time when they were most needed," said Maciej Polkowski of the ICRC in a statement.

A total of 611 incidents of violence, harassment and stigmatisation were recorded by the ICRC in more than 40 countries between the beginning of February and the end of July.

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More than 20% of the cases involved physical assaults, 15% involved acts of discrimination based on fear, and 15% involved verbal attacks or threats.

Of the attacks on individuals, 67% were directed against health-care workers, 22% against people wounded, ill or suspected of being ill, and 5% against internally displaced people or refugees.

"Acts of violence against health-care workers and patients are often motivated by fear of contracting the virus and a lack of basic knowledge about Covid-19," said Esperanza Martinez, head of the ICRC's Health Unit.

For example, most of the acts committed by patients or relatives of patients have been motivated by grievances related to the death of a family member or by the fear of seeing one of their own die.

There have also been cases where relatives of deceased patients have turned against health personnel or medical facilities after being forced, due to coronavirus restrictions, to forego funeral rituals.

The ICRC calls on governments and communities to combat the misinformation that contributes to these incidents and to ensure that health-care professionals can work safely.

The Brussels Times

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