Indian doctors evicted over coronavirus transmission fears

Health department officials and doctors participate in a mock drill practice with a mock patient at SRN Hospital, amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Allahabad on March 18, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Indian doctors evicted over coronavirus transmission fears

  • The country went into a 21-day lockdown on Wednesday
  • India’s public health care infrastructure is poor and it suffers from an acute shortage of medical staff

NEW DELHI: Some doctors combatting India’s coronavirus outbreak have been evicted from their homes by force, a medical association said on Wednesday, due to fears that they may be infected and spread the disease to neighbors.

The country went into a 21-day lockdown on Wednesday, and experts have said it faces a tidal wave of infections if rigorous steps are not taken to keep the virus in check.

India’s public health care infrastructure is poor and it suffers from an acute shortage of medical staff, who will generally see many patients over a short period.

Some doctors in temporary residences had been forcefully evicted by their landlords over infection fears, the Resident Doctor’s Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi said.

“(They) are now stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country,” the association — which represents 2,500 doctors — said in a letter to the federal home minister on Tuesday, urging the government to intervene.

Late on Tuesday India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, himself a doctor, said on Twitter he was “deeply anguished” to see reports of doctors being ostracized in residential complexes, adding that precautions were being taken to ensure health care workers were not carriers of the infection.

A home ministry spokeswoman said the Delhi state administration had issued orders saying penal action would be taken against those evicting doctors. She did not comment on the situation in other states.

India, a country of 1.3 billion, has recorded 539 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths.

It has just one doctor for every 1,404 people, the government said in February, significantly below the World Health Organization’s norm of one per 1,000.

The AIIMS association’s president, Adarsh Pratap Singh, said three doctors in New Delhi and around 15 in the southern city of Hyderabad had already faced issues with their accommodation. He did not have estimates of how many have been impacted overall.

“People are not accepting them... The morale of doctors is down because of this, a stigma is being created due to lack of awareness of coronavirus,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

Airline staff have faced similar problems, with state-run carrier Air India and private airline IndiGo saying there had been instances of employees being ostracized from their communities.


Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

Updated 27 min 37 sec ago

Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

  • The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners
  • The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce

KABUL: Afghan authorities plan to release 900 more Taliban prisoners Tuesday, as a rare cease-fire by the insurgents entered its third and last day.
The pause in fighting, which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, was for the most part holding out across the country, officials said.
The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners.
On Monday they freed 100 people and will release another 900 on Tuesday, the government said, the biggest group of Taliban prisoners freed so far.
“There is a decision to release 900 today,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
But the exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, he added.
The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin the negotiations, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.
On Tuesday officials said the cease-fire, the country’s first initiated by the Taliban, had largely been observed.
The only other comparable pause in violence came over Eid in 2018, an olive branch offered by Ghani.
Violence in Afghanistan escalated after the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces by next year.
The agreement also stipulated the Afghan government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Prior to this week’s releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents had let go about 300 Afghan security forces captives.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the cease-fire, and said the freed Taliban fighters should not return to the battlefield.