Pakistani doctors launch hunger strike over virus protection fears

In this handout photograph released by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab and taken on April 24, 2020, doctors wearing facemasks sit in during a hunger strike protest at the Punjab Health Secretary in Lahore. (AFP/Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab)
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Updated 25 April 2020

Pakistani doctors launch hunger strike over virus protection fears

  • The protesters have kept working in their hospitals while taking turns to demonstrate outside the health authority offices in provincial capital Lahore
  • The alliance said about 30 doctors and nurses were on hunger strike, with up to 200 medical staff joining them each day for demonstrations

LAHORE: Dozens of Pakistani doctors and nurses have launched a hunger strike demanding adequate protective equipment for frontline staff treating coronavirus patients, the lead organizer of the protest said Saturday.
Health workers have complained for weeks that the country’s hospitals are suffering chronic shortages of safety gear, prompting the arrest of more than 50 doctors who called for more supplies in the city of Quetta earlier this month.
Frontline staff have been left vulnerable, with more than 150 medical workers testing positive for the virus nationwide, according to the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) in worst-hit Punjab province.
The protesters have kept working in their hospitals while taking turns to demonstrate outside the health authority offices in provincial capital Lahore.
“We do not intend on stopping until the government listens to our demands. They have been consistently refusing to adhere to our demands,” said doctor Salman Haseeb.
Haseeb heads the province’s Grand Health Alliance, which is organizing the protest, and he said he had not eaten since April 16.
“We are on the frontline of this virus and if we are not protected then the whole population is at risk,” he told AFP.
The alliance said about 30 doctors and nurses were on hunger strike, with up to 200 medical staff joining them each day for demonstrations.
Punjab’s health worker union are supporting the alliance and also demanding adequate quarantine conditions for medical staff.
Nearly three dozen doctors, nurses and paramedics contracted the virus in one hospital in the city of Multan, while seven members of a doctor’s family were infected in Lahore, it added.
“We are simply demanding justice for our community,” said doctor and YDA chairman Khizer Hayat.
Hospital staff would not escalate their protest by walking off the job, he added.
Provincial health department officials told AFP that hospitals had now been provided with adequate protection gear after an earlier “backlog” was resolved.
Earlier this month the Punjab government announced that frontline workers will be awarded a pay bonus and life insurance.
Almost half of the nearly 12,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections across Pakistan have been recorded in Punjab.
The number of infections in the country is believed to be far higher because of a lack of testing in the impoverished country of 215 million.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan officially began in Pakistan on Saturday, with concerns that the light restrictions imposed on mosque gatherings will not stop a potentially rapid spread of the virus.
Frontline medical workers across the world have been grappling with short supplies of vital safety equipment since the start of the pandemic.


France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

Updated 23 min 45 sec ago

France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

  • Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib

PARIS: The investigation into the murder in France of a teacher for showing caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer had a militant contact, a source close to the case said.
Seven people have been charged with being complicit in a “terrorist murder” after 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov killed Samuel Paty on Friday, including two teenagers who helped him identify the teacher.
France paid homage to Paty on Wednesday, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that the history and geography teacher had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.
In their search for accomplices, anti-terror investigators have now established that Anzorov had contact with a Russian-speaking militant in Syria whose identity is not yet known, the source told AFP.
Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.
In an audio message in Russian immediately after the killing, translated by AFP, Anzorov said that he had “avenged the Prophet” whom the teacher had shown “in an insulting way.”
The message was published on social media in a video, accompanied by two tweets, one showing the victim’s severed head and another in which Anzorov confessed to the murder.
Moments later he was shot dead by police. Anzorov decapitated Paty with a long knife.
Many of Paty’s students saw the images online before they could be taken down.
The teenagers who pointed out Paty to his killer in return for money were late Wednesday charged over the killing.

HIGHLIGHT

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.

The parent of one of Paty’s pupils, who started the social media campaign against the teacher even though his daughter was not in class when the cartoons were shown, was also charged.
Also charged was a known extremist radical who helped the father stir up outrage against Paty.
The other three facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of whom allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.
Two of them also face c harges of being complicit in terrorist murder while the third was charged with a lesser offense, the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.
Paty, 47, became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
Police have carried out dozens of raids since the crime, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective, a group they said supported Hamas.
The French government has earmarked for dissolution more than 50 other organizations it accuses of having links with extremists.
Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial of alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack started last month.
The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defense of free speech and the right to mock religion.
“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron vowed at a ceremony Wednesday in Paty’s honor at the Sorbonne university in Paris.