A team of health workers, including a doctor, who had gone to collect swab samples from the local people at the nearby fishing hamlet of Poonthura, where several COVID-19 positive cases have been reported, were allegedly threatened and attacked by some locals on Friday.
The team had reportedly visited the coastal area in a car, when their route was blocked by the protesting residents. The protesters reportedly forced the healthworkers to lower their car windows. According to sources from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) some of the protesting locals allegedly spat at those seated inside the car.
All the four health workers have been asked to go into quarantine, IMA sources told PTI.
The incident took place at Poonthura, which has reported an unusually high number of coronavirus cases. However, on Friday, locals protested the stringent restrictions placed in the area after the government declared it a containment zone.
Several senior police officers and health workers arrived at the locality on Friday in order to reason with the protesters. However, those protesting said that the health workers did not brief those patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, before taking them to institutional quarantine. Even in the quarantine centre, they were not treated well, the protesters alleged.
“They have agreed to address the issues we have raised. One big issue was that people who tested positive for the coronavirus were taken to isolation centres but without an explanation. Many of them did not understand what was happening. One of our requests to the authorities was to explain to them and convince them of the need for isolation before taking them away. To give them some time to prepare for it. Even after they were taken away, they received poor treatment at the hospitals. They began making calls to their families back home and telling them not to take tests because if you are positive, you will be taken to a centre and not be taken care of,” says Fr Bebinson, parish priest of Poonthura.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Health Minister K K Shailaja, have condemned the attack on the health workers.
“It is a grave situation. We had been steadily controlling the spread and keeping COVID-19 deaths to minimum when suddenly a super spread happened in regions like Poonthura and Manacaud. From July 6 onwards, 1,192 tests were conducted in the Poonthura region out of which 243 results were positive. We had to put strict controls in place. It is violating these restrictions that people came out on the streets. Whoever provoked them to do this, it is very dangerous,” the Minister said.