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More than 600 acts of violence committed in connection to COVID-19 -Intl Red Cross

Realising that relaxing rules may have offered a loophole for some companies to profiteer unlawfully from government tenders, the Treasury is now strengthening its hand on overseeing Covid-19 procurement. (Illustrative image | Source: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

BOGOTA, Aug 19 (Reuters) - More than 600 cases of violence, harassment or stigmatization in relation to cases of COVID-19 have been recorded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the first six months of the pandemic.

Some 611 violent acts took place from February to July across more than 40 countries, the ICRC said on Tuesday, adding that the real number of incidents is likely much higher. More than 20% of incidents were physical assaults, while 15% were verbal assaults or threats and another 15% constituted fear-based discrimination, it said.

“This crisis has put health care workers in harm’s way at a time when they are needed the most,” the head of ICRC’s Health Care in Danger initiative, Maciej Polkowski, said in a statement.

“These attacks have a devastating impact on access to and provision of health care when many health systems are overwhelmed,” Polkowski added.

Globally, more than 780,000 people have died from COVID-19 and over 22 million have been infected by the coronavirus that causes it, according to a Reuters tally.

The outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in early December and was referred to as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March.

Attacks against medical staff, patients and medical infrastructure were driven by fear of infection, grief related to death, and anger at being unable to perform burial rituals, among other reasons, the ICRC said.

Incidents were recorded in countries including Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Colombia, the ICRC added.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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