A quarantine team of health workers and policemen was allegedly attacked last evening in west Bengaluru by a large mob of about 200 locals when the officials reached a neighbourhood to take 58 people who were believed to have come in contact with three coronavirus patients. They were forced to retreat leaving behind the 33 locals who had to be taken to the isolation units.
At least 54 persons have been arrested so far after the incident triggered widespread criticism. While the police denied reports of attack on the team, a first information report or FIR has been filed that mentions charges of assault and attempt to murder.
A ward in West Bengaluru's Padarayanapura locality was sealed last week after three people, who had attended a congregation in Delhi's Nizammudin in March, tested positive for coronavirus. The congregation held by Tablighi Jamaat has set off the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in India; more than 4,000 cases across the country have been linked to the congregation so far.
As the team reached the neighbourhood at around 7 pm, angry locals started removing tin sheets that were erected as barricades to mark the sealed area.
In videos shot on mobile phones, locals can be seen damaging tents installed for the healthcare workers and policemen.
Amid reports of attack on healthcare workers, senior police officer B Ramesh said: "No healthcare worker was attacked... only some damage to the property has been reported." The locals were demanding on-the-spot testing. It took a few hours for the officials concerned to bring the situation under control.
In a tweet, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said: "Police Commissioner has been told to provide full security to Asha workers and other officials. No attack on Covid Warriors will be tolerated."
Union Minister Prahlad Joshi also condemned the incident in a tweet.
I strongly condemn attack on Police & medical staff at Padarayanpura Bangalore who were on a visit to check the quarantined ones— Pralhad Joshi (@JoshiPralhad) April 20, 2020
Fight against Corona is human
Have spoken to Home Min of the state & DGP to take stern action
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai was quoted as saying by news agency PTI: "I met Chief Minister and briefed him about the incident. He has told us to act strictly. I have told the same to my officials. We won't tolerate such acts by anyone."
Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy called the act "reprehensible" in a tweet.
Fifty-four people have been arrested in the case, including those who had to be taken to isolation units. Among those arrested is a woman who is believed to have instigated the group of locals.
Several attacks have been reported in the past few weeks against the health workers and those in the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.
Last week, a group of sanitation worker in Madhya Pradesh were attacked by a mob of locals in Dewas district when they went to a neighbourhood to clean the streets. In Bihar, four such cases of attack on health workers were reported across the state within 24 hours on Thursday.
Across India, more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, more than 500 people have died.