SANTIAGO – Health workers in Chile report that they are being discriminated against because of fears that they are Covid-19 carriers. Some report having bleach thrown at them, while others say they get drenched in disinfectant on the way home from work. The Ministry of Health has condemned these abuses.
Every night at 9:00 p.m. cheers and applause echo throughout Santiago – an ongoing expression of the public’s gratitude for its health workers fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. Although most will applaud these frontline workers, not everyone wants to be near them, and some are actively discriminating against them.
Health workers in Chile are now reporting cases of discrimination by neighbors and others, who fear that these workers might be spreading Covid-19.
After a nurse posted on social media that the administrator of her apartment building informed her that she could no longer take the stairs or use the common areas, additional reports surfaced that other nurses had bleach thrown at them or were sprayed with disinfectant when they visited people to vaccinate them at home.
Members of the National Federation of Nurses of Chile have condemned these attacks. “We take every precaution necessary, not only to protect the public but also to protect our families,” they said.
The Ministry of Health has demanded that the discrimination stop, stating, “these are the people that take care of us when we are sick.” They have asked health workers to report any discrimination to their hospitals. A specific event in Puerto Varas caused the ministry to speak out.
The event happened last week, when a nurse left the Puerto Varas Clinic and went to her car parked nearby. Two men wearing face masks approached her, intimidated her, and told her that she couldn’t park there anymore. After leaving, the nurse noticed that she had a note on her windshield: “Don’t park here again. Next time we’ll call the police. We don’t want you to get us sick.”
“We Don’t Want To Get Sick”
According to a report published on Wednesday, nine percent of those infected with the coronavirus are medical workers. These statistics have led people to believe that they are more likely to carry and spread the virus. In their defense, medical workers state that they know how to take proper precautions.
Discrimination against health workers during the pandemic seems to be a growing problem in Latin America. An obstetrician in Buenos Aires, Argentina said that his neighbors near his office told him to close his practice because he was putting them at risk.
In Bogotá, Colombia, an anesthesiologist said he is no longer allowed to use the elevator out of fear that he could spread Covid-19, forcing him to climb six flights of stairs to get to his apartment. While in the city of Calí, a doctor was evicted from his home due to his profession. Many health workers in Colombia say that they no longer wear their uniforms on the street, for fear that they will be harassed.
In Mexico, the National Board Against Discrimination received 12 complaints from health workers related to coronavirus. Some also reported having bleach thrown at them in order to “disinfect” them. Others couldn’t use public transportation, stating that buses sometimes didn’t even stop to pick them up.
In some cases, health workers say they aren’t even reporting cases of discrimination anymore, as they fear retaliation.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.