ISLAMABAD - The Amnesty International (AI) South Aisa chapter on Monday urged the Ministry of Nation­al Health Services (NHS) to im­partially investigate attacks on healthcare workers perform­ing duties in novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and pro­vide them adequate personal protection equipment (PPE).

A letter written by the office of head of the AI South Aisia chapter to the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Dr. Zafar Mirza said that “Am­nesty International urges you to promptly investigate any at­tacks or acts of violence against health workers in a through, in­dependent and impartial man­ner, and perpetrators must be brought to account”.

“Make explicit a zero toler­ance attitude to violence and discrimination against health workers may be at additional or specific risk due to their multi­ple and interesting identities and this should be factored into the response,” the letter said.

AI also asked the employers, whether public or private, to provide all health workers with adequate PPE to protect them­selves during the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with interna­tional standards.

It also urged to immediate­ly put in place protocols to en­sure that managers of all facili­ties where health workers work conduct an analysis of what risks staff face regarding vio­lence and put in place adequate security measures to address these threats.

It also calls to set-up systems to document any violent inci­dents, discrimination and/or stigmatization faced by health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage work­ers to report such incident promptly.

The head of the AI South Asia Chapter Omer Warraich asked SAPM on NHS Dr. Zafar Mirza that “I am writing to you out of extreme concerns for the lives and safety of health workers in Pakistan, who have played an extraordinary and critically im­portant role in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak”.

“While everyone remains at risk of contracting COVID-19, health workers are particularly vulnerable as they are consist­ently and repeatedly exposed to the virus. As of 29 June 2020, official figures record at least 5367 health workers across Pa­kistan being infected with COV­ID-19, with 58 dead as a result. This is devastating tally,” said the letter.

The letter said that doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers and other medical staff, who are helping people in the face of such imminent danger, risking their lives in corona pan­demic.

“Amnesty International has recorded several instances of violence against health work­ers across Pakistan since April. Hospitals have been vandal­ized, many doctors have been attacked, and one was even shot by member of the Counter Ter­rorism Force,” the letter men­tioned.

It also said that the Young Doctors Association says health workers are being attacked on a daily basis.

Most of the attacks against health workers have come ei­ther after they followed stand­ard operating procedures for re­turning the body of a COVID-19 victim to their relatives.

“There have been sever­al statements from ministers claiming that hospitals have the necessary resources, despite re­ports that hospitals have been forced to turn away even crit­ical patients, given the short­age of bed, ventilators and oth­er life saving equipment. This puts health workers in danger as people do not believe them when they say they do not have room for more patients,” the AI letter said.