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7 Apr, 2020 05:29

WATCH police arrest Pakistani doctors during heated protest over lack of protective gear amid surge in Covid-19

A group of Pakistani doctors clashed with police after taking to the streets to protest over shortages of protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus. The scuffles led to dozens arrests.

Marching from Quetta’s Civil Hospital to the local chief minister’s office on Monday, members of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) came out in force to demand better protection for those treating Covid-19 patients. The medics were met by baton-wielding officers, however, who dispersed the intense street protest, which came just one day after some 13 doctors in the city tested positive for the illness.

“Dozens” of arrests were made during the protest, Quetta’s Deputy Inspector General of Police Razzaq Cheema said, though he denied that batons were used on any of the demonstrators. He instead said that a “scuffle” broke out after some of the doctors tried to “cross barricades” outside of the chief minister’s office.

Following Monday’s arrests, a local YDA head, Yasir Achakzai, said that the group would boycott government hospitals, vowing to “suspend” their services due to the “high-handedness of [the] police.”

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The coronavirus outbreak has moved quickly since it was first detected in Quetta, located in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, jumping to more than 100 cases less than two weeks after the first case was confirmed there. Dozens of healthcare workers across Pakistan have tested positive for the virus, meanwhile, killing a doctor and a nurse last month.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan said in a tweet on Monday that he had met with the YDA and “assured [them] we are serious” about addressing their concerns, though the vow appears to have done little to placate the doctors.

Pakistan has confirmed 3,766 cases of Covid-19 within its borders and some 53 fatalities, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. In the last week, the country has seen its number of infections surge by over 1,800, despite nationwide lockdown measures being imposed to slow the spread of the disease, nearly doubling in a matter of days.

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