Fear of COVID-19 transmission leads to attacks on health workers worldwide

Health workers putting protective gear before the beginning of the shift Health workers putting protective gear before the beginning of the shift Misha Friedman/Getty Images

30 May 2020 

The recent and widespread attacks on health workers around the world raise concern for their safety

On Wednesday 27 May during the meeting of the UN Security Council on protection of civilian in armed conflict, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), reported more than 200 incidents and attacks on health workers, which have occurred progressively with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The high number of such cases suggests, according to Maurer, the turning of the health crisis into a matter of protection for the personnel involved.

Due to the fast spreading of the virus, health workers have been subjected to an increase in the workload and efforts in order to save as many lives as possible. The recognition and praise for their dedication has been shown worldwide. However, health workers have been victim of physical and verbal assaults. According to Maurer, more than 50 per cent of the incidents consisted in verbal assaults and threats, as well as disregard for personnel protective measures, whereas 20 per cent were discriminatory-related attacks. In some instances, health workers have been prevented from boarding public transport or doused in bleach. The main reason behind the assaults has been the widespread fear of transmission of COVID-19 from health workers, who because of their job are exposed to the virus. The incidents have been registered in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Africa.

The ICRC, through its Health in Danger initiative, together with other 12 global organizations representing health workers, has called local governments for the implementation of laws against these attacks, the providing of a safe working environment and the tackling of misinformation, which leads to such doings.


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Autore: Ludovica Di Gregorio

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